§ [Fourth Day.]
Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [10th February],
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:—
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.
§ Question again proposed.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add the wordsbut humbly presents to your Majesty its regrets that Government expenditure has been allowed to continue at so high a rate with a consequent depreciation of national credit and increase in the cost of living.This Amendment deals with the state of the national finances. It is a subject that has been dealt with already three times fully in this House during the course of the present financial year. I make no apology whatever for introducing the subject a fourth time for consideration. It is possible to promise reforms which are pleasing to the speaker, which are pleasing to the audience to listen to, and which are admirable in themselves. Yet I venture to say, and I think everyone in this House will agree with me, that practically every man and woman throughout this country if they were asked would say that the real reform for which they were most anxious was a reduction in the cost of living and a decent assurance that it was not going to reach a yet higher level. Let any member of this House go down and ask any working woman. She may be anxious about the question of housing and she may wish for some of the other reforms which we are told will be brought before this House, but what is most present to her mind is the cost of food and the cost of clothing and the whole of the rest of the expenses which go to make up the family budget which she has to arrange for her 396 family during the week. Or ask any working man the same question. It may be that the first phrase which will arise to his mind is that he wishes for an increase in wages, but at the bottom of that demand the fundamental reason, the real driving force that actuates it is. again the rise in prices and in the cost of living due to the inflation which has occurred, which makes his previous wage no longer adequate to his wants. Or let any Member of this House question anyone in the business community. I fancy that going down to the City in the morning, probably almost the first item of information that any business man looks for in the paper is, how does the American Exchange stand to-day, what is the dollar as compared with the pound sterling? Or if a manufacturer be questioned, he will think of the inflation of prices. He will recognise that at this moment no doubt there is such a demand in the world for the commodities that he can manufacture that in many cases even with prices at their present level he can find a ready sale, and yet the source of apprehension for him in the future is the effect on his future position as a manufacturer in this country of the inflation that has now occurred and the consequences that will last for an indefinite time afterwards.
If that is the case, may I ask the Members of this House to cast their minds back to a Debate which occurred in this House in the last days of October last. What was then the state of affairs? We had listened in August to a pessimistic speech by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In the last days of October there was hardly a Member in this House who was not surprised and amazed at the comparatively optimistic though always sober tone of the Chancellor and the much more flamboyant tone of the Prime Minister. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us not to be hysterical; the Prime Minister, whose language is always more picturesque, complained of the "epileptic screaming which has deafened our ears". I wonder, judged by the course of events, who is the most justified—the optimist or the epileptic screamer? I ask the House to consider the plain facts. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer made his Budget speech the dollar, of which the par value, of course, is 4.86, stood at over 4.60, when he gave his serious warning in August it 397 had fallan to 4.31, when we had the Debate at the end of October it had fallen to 4.16, and now it is under 3.40. That is one index of national credit. Take, on the other hand, the cost of living. If the figure 100 be taken for the average cost of living of the year before the war, what has been the cost during this last year? At the time of the Budget, from 100 the cost had risen to 251, by August it had risen to 257, by the end of October to 274, at the end of the year it had risen again to 297, and, though I have not the most recent figures, I think there is hardly any doubt that it is now over 300.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
The hon. and gallant Gentleman says it is the same in America. It is not the case, but I will come to that point later. That is the measure of inflation, and the point of importance is really this, that it is the Government predominantly by their administration which can control the amount of the inflation. We were given the proper principles on which to proceed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We were told in August thatif we were to continue to spend at the rate we are spending now, it would lead us straight to national bankruptcy,and there is no doubt whatever about it, and yet we have incurred fresh expenditure since that date. We were told by the Chancellor in his Budget speech that we had to look for economy from all hut "Government economy first and foremost." We were told by him again that the first thing to do was to cut down expenditure, and yet on the whole since the date of his Budget speech expenditure has largely increased. Therefore we are entitled to say, judging by the principles laid down by the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, that borrowings have been increased, the deficit during the year has been increased, and that the consequent inflation is due very largely to the policy which has been pursued by the Government itself. It is quite true that at the present moment the income balances the expenditure, but I am sure that the Secretary for the Treasury, - just like the Chancellor, will not contend for a moment that just what happens in these few weeks, when the Income Tax is coming in at an accelerated pace, is really any criterion of the year as a whole. The 398 real fact is that we have had a continued inflation right through the year, past the end of October up till now. I have not the least doubt, to use the words of the President of the Council in his charming speech last night, that what can be put before this House or the country at the present moment on this subject are only commonplaces. At the same time they are commonplaces that are "worthy of the consideration of the House" and of the country, and for this reason, that it is the lack of action on precisely such commonplace truths that lands either an individual or a nation in difficulties.
The hon. and gallant Member sitting beneath me (Commander Bellairs) remarked a short time ago that it was the same in America, and the same sort of statement has been made not infrequently. In the Gracious Speech from the Throne we have a statement that prices in these islands are appreciably lower than elsewhere, and in another Ministerial utterance that they are not so high as they are in other belligerent nations. It is quite true that the position in France and in Italy is worse than it is here, but that does not at all justify us in regarding with complacency the present state of affairs here. The conditions in France and Italy are different from the conditions here; their difficulties are not the same as ours; in many ways they are much greater than ours; and I venture to say, putting it in an extreme way, that if any individual or firm becomes bankrupt and only wants to pay 13s. 4d. in the £, it does not justify him in the eyes of his creditors or of the world to compare him with some other firm that only wants to pay 6s. 8d in the £. It would be at least as justifiable to compare our present position with that of the United States. Take the position of the United States at the present moment. It has been a rather remarkable sequence of events. The inflation of currency and of prices in the United States was greater before they entered the War than afterwards. I think I am right in saying that, from the time they entered the War onwards the inflation of prices has been little over 25 per cent., and if you take the total over the whole period the result is that the inflation of prices, as judged by the official publications, has not been nearly as great as in this country. Not only so, but the position of the United States as an 399 exporter of prime materials possessing a balance of exports for which she receives payment is very different on an inflation of prices from that of a country which is an importer of raw materials on a large scale and which has at the present moment, or for some years past, had a balance of imports over exports.
Therefore, the position of the United States at the present moment, from the point of view of inflation, is far better than this country. What I would venture to say is that we have got to take our own country on its merits; we have not to take credit because we are in a better position than the Continent. It is not for us to adopt the Pharisaical frame of mind, and thank God we are not as other men. I do not ask for comparison with the United States. The point is that we have to judge for ourselves what we can do. If anyone judges it from that point of view, the fact is plain that the inflation here is due primarily to the fact that there has been an excess of Government expenditure over income, and that borrowing has been the greatest cause of that inflation.
There are a few stock parliamentary arguments when any charge of this kind is brought against the Government. I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or the Secretary to the Treasury, will not use them to-day, because they have worn rather thin. The first is the argument that we private members are really mainly responsible; we ask for economy in general, and then we recommend expenditure in detail for which no provision has been made. That, to a limited extent, is true as regards private members, but it really does not exonerate the Government. If the Government know that the demand is going to be made, and that it is going to be accepted by them, then they ought to make provision for it, since it is not only a question of expenditure, but of revenue to be raised equally with the expenditure, so as not to cause borrowing and inflation. If they do not make provision when they know expenditure of that kind is going to be incurred, then they, like Cassandra, are uttering warnings, knowing that the warnings are not going to be heeded.
From some points of view the case is stronger. Take the case of old-age pensions. We were told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that if demands for ex- 400 penditure were made—may I put it in a simile which, of course, he would not have used about us—we would be like the Gadarene swine rushing down steep places to the water, and yet what happens? When an increase is proposed in old-age pensions his fellow herdsmen place themselves at our head in order to lead us down to the water.
That is one argument, and, as I say, it has worn somewhat thin. What is the other? The other is to say to us, "What economies do Private Members themselves propose?" and then to take the list and say, "Do they propose to cut down old-age pensions, increased pay for the police, increased pay for the civil service, and a whole lot of other increases which have been given?" Or perhaps attention may be called, as it was by the Prime Minister on the 30th August, to the fact that while economies are proposed, there is no agreement between different sides of the House as to the kinds of economy to be made or the kind of fresh revenue to be raised. I submit that it is perfectly absurd to ask for agreement from Members of all shades of opinion. It is for the Government to agree upon the different kinds of economy to be effected.
But if we are challenged to suggest what economies might be made, might I take up the challenge, and review the situation and make some suggestions? I think there are economies which might be made. If this had been a business government and the nation's affairs were really run as a business, then there are factors which would have been taken into consideration, and there are economies which might have been effected. The fact is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer—he is detained at another meeting for the moment, and it is much easier to praise a man behind his back than to his face—is a very real economist, indeed, but he is the one director on the Board who is quite genuinely thrifty and frugal. For that reason he is always put up at the company's meeting to explain the deficit, whereas the other members of the Board have very little desire, or, at any rate, take very few steps to control expenditure. I do not think the Government as a whole have looked at the whole course of their policy and taken it into review, as a prudent manager of a company would have taken different parts of his company's 401 activities into review from the point of view of the economic effects on the nation. Take, first of all, the war with Turkey, which was discussed from the diplomatic point of view in the debate yesterday. I think the least convincing part of the speech of the Lord President of the Council last night was that in which he endeavoured to prove; that it was not possible to bring the war with Turkey sooner to an end. Let me ask the House to regard it for a moment, not from the diplomatic, but from the financial point of view. It is difficult for a private member to calculate how much the continuance of the war with Turkey is costing us. Is it a third of a million a day? If it is a third of a million a day, that amount comes to £100,000,000 a year. It is a far cry from Anatolia or Mesopotamia back to the individual house of the worker in this country, and yet it is the deficit which causes the actual inflation which, in turn, is the reason why the wife pays more for the children's boots, and her husband pays more for his pipe of tobacco. That is the effect in this country from the financial standpoint of the postponement of peace terms with Turkey. The Chancellor of the Exchequer at the end of October said that to impose taxation and have a second Budget in the year would have meant a great dislocation of trade. So it is, and, as everyone knows, a Budget, and still more a supplementary Budget, means dislocation of trade. But I would venture to say that the merchant who, having bought cotton in America, is shipping it back to America from Lancashire to-day, would probably find a second Budget cause less dislocation than the operation he has just had to go through in his business.
Let me take another source of expenditure. Again, it was treated of yesterday in the foreign affairs debate—the expenditure in Russia. I only look at it from the purely financial point of view. However you make the calculation as to the millions already given to Russia, whether you take it on the calculation of the Secretary of State for War, or on the higher figures that others have brought forward, what does it mean? The vacillation in policy with regard to Russia has meant that such money as we have spent might very nearly have been thrown into the gutter for all the good it has done this country.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
Perhaps hon. Members misunderstood what I intended to convey. At the time it may have been right or it may have been wrong, but to send help, to start to back a man, and then not to back him right through means that whatever money you have spent at the start is wasted.
May I turn to a matter of domestic policy which has not been ordered rightly from the point of view of finance? Ask any manufacturer what trouble he has to contend against at the present time. It is long odds that in a minute or two out he will come as to the impossibility of getting prompt delivery of material owing to the extraordinary congestion of transport. Try to ship some goods from one port to another. You cannot get a boat to take them by sea. If you want them sent by land it will take 3 weeks as against 48 hours before the war. It is this delay which is putting the whole of business out to a very great degree. How much are we spending on the Ministry of Transport at the present time, and, really, are we getting value for our money? The Ministry of Transport was intended to put these matters right. It may be asked in return whether matters would have been any better if they had been left to the private railway companies. I say that at least the chaos could not have been worse! From instances I have heard whether in London, or the Midlands, or the West Riding, mistakes have been made which the private companies never would have made. If I may judge from an instance with which I have to do personally, that is the question of wagons, I am quite certain that no private railway company in the Kingdom would never have adopted the position that the Minister of Transport took up in the affair.
It is not only the congestion on the railways that is the cause of trouble in this respect. I would ask the House to consider the consequential damage. See how shipping is affected. Some people tell us—I am not sure whether it is actually Correct or not—that there is more shipping afloat at this moment than ever before in the history of the world. Yet even if there is more shipping afloat it is only doing three-quarters of the work it could do. Why? Because of the congestion. If it is short from the point of view of performance, what is the result? First of all, you get an enormous rate of freight, 403 penalising the manufacturer in respect to his raw material. In the second place, you get in an acute form precisely that difficulty to which the President of the Council alluded yesterday. It is no good having supplies in the world when they cannot be made available where-wanted. It is this shortage in the work of shipping which prevents many of the supplies being available. There is a real shortage of certain supplies; but what I have alluded to prevents many supplies, of which there is an adequate amount in the world, being brought to the places where they are wanted, and enabling manufacture to be carried on under the most economic conditions. That is one home Department in which improvement is needed.
May I take another instance. Supposing that the whole of the work of this Government were treated as a business, then I would venture to say the first thing needed, and undertaken, would be an inquiry into the speed and quickness with which the work of the Disposals Board is at present being carried out. What is needed in order to reduce prices? It is to have adequate supplies brought forward. There are enormous quantities of supplies badly needed at this moment in the hands of the Disposal Board. It is impossible for a private Member to know exactly how the situation lies. One hears of instances here and there. From all I can hear, whether you go from Salonika to Richborough, you hear of materials that have never even been catalogued or listed—material which might have been sent from Salonika to Central Europe, or at Richborough, where material has been asked for, and where those asking have been told it is not catalogued and therefore cannot be disposed of. If I may talk from cases I know personally, tools, lathes, and other instruments are badly needed, and cannot be got at the present time; yet there is quite a considerable amount in the possession of the Disposals Board.
We have heard a great deal of late about profiteering in this country. It may quite well be that there are some bad cases of profiteering. I do not deny it. But what is the best way of dealing with profiteering? It is no good setting up a profiteering committee which then continues in a state of suspended animation. It is no good having a Profiteering Act of 404 the kind we have got. That Act has really been nothing more or less than a bit of camouflage, like a scarecrow in the fields. It has had an effect like that of the scarecrow which for a short while frightens the lesser birds, but which before long becomes a matter of ridicule to the whole of the feathered tribe. That is the effect of the Profiteering Act at present. Surely, to bring down prices, to stop profiteering, and to get matters back to their normal level, what really is needed is to try and increase the supply until it becomes equal to the demand. What is needed is to set loose supplies which are here, and enable those supplies which come from overseas to be brought to this country much more rapidly and efficiently
We have been asked to make suggestions. I would only make one more. The wheat subsidy was estimated to cost this country a little under £50,000,000. What is the cost now? We are hearing that the cost, owing to the depreciation in exchange and the fall of the £ will be much higher. What will it be? £60,000,000. £70,000,000, £80,000,000? What is it going to cost? Is this added cost, which causes inflation and the rise in prices, really necessary? If any Member of this House will take the trouble to go through the list of imports, he will see that last year we imported £600,000,000 worth of food, a great part of which could have been grown as economically in this country. We have a promise in the King's Speech that this matter is going to be attended to. It says:The financial burden of purchasing such supplies in foreign markets with an adverse rate of exchange is very great. … Measures will accordingly be proposed … and to develop the production of essential foodstuffs within the United Kingdom.That would be a comforting answer if we had not had a similar announcement in the King's Speech last year—and nothing done! It would be more comforting if we did not remember what had really happened in this country during the last two years. There was a great deal in increase in arable land and arable production under the Corn Production Act; yet during the last two years the amount of arable production has decreased year by year. I am bound to say that, that being the actual record of the Government practice, I am afraid I do not take so much comfort from their precept until I actually see it carried out. I would 405 only ask the House to remember that a great part of that food and imported produce could have been grown in this country and this possibility is vouched for on the very highest authority. What is the net result? It means in the first place that we have to pay for the whole of the unnecessary excess and that drives down the rate of the exchange and makes us pay more for all the rest.
The foregoing are some instances in which we could have had a more connected policy and then the inflation in the country would not have been so great as it is. If I carry the House with me so far we can now take the case of economy as regards pensions paid to civil servants, the police and all the rest? Pensions and pay on the present scale have been fixed in relation to the inflation, and if that inflation had been curtailed we could better have afforded the present amount, and even if a lesser amount had been given its value would have been greater. I hope the Secretary to the Treasury will not think this is unfriendly criticism because we know that the Chancellor of the Exchequer quite truly is an economist. We know that he does appreciate the admirable and self-denying work of such bodies as the National War Savings Institution, and yet the work of that association in promoting economy is often stultified unless they can have the example of Government economy before them. But if the Chancellor of the Exchequer is an economist I cannot say that his colleagues are. It is not a question as to whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer has admirable intentions, but whether he can prevail on the Government as a whole to carry them out. I should be the last to deny the great qualities which the Prime Minister possesses, but I would ask any hon. Member, however ardent a follower of the right hon. Gentleman he may be, to really say whether he thinks he is at heart an economist. I have not the least doubt we may wish to think that he is so, and I know that he gives us admirable precepts. He says,I am not counselling complacency, but on the contrary, economy, and the price is eternal vigilance.Does any hon. Member think that the Prime Minister is really engaged in an eternal vigil for economy?
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I am glad to think that there is one hon. Member who thinks so, and I hope that encouragement may impel the Prime Minister, by his action, to gain more converts. I think, however, that the greater number of hon. Members of the House do not look upon the Prime Minister as one who is lying awake and passing sleepless nights in order to take care of the pence, so that the pound sterling may look the dollar in the eye again.
To sum up there has been an excess of expenditure over income, and this has caused the inflation, and the rise in the cost of living. No doubt all these facts are commonplaces, and I will conclude by saying that the position in Europe is bad largely because the trouble is economic, and it is only better economy in this country that will react upon the state of Europe. Better economy is absolutely vital to the commercial and financial well-being of the community, situated as we are with a vital need for foreign trade if we are to continue as the financial centre of the world. Lastly, a sound state of finance is the greatest social reform we can have because it is the only foundation upon which other social reforms can be built, and without it they are like a building with a gorgeous but top-heavy facade and superstructure calculated to bring down the whole fabric with a crash.
§ Mr. G. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I am sorry the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not able to be present to hear the brilliant speech which has just been made by my hon. friend opposite. As a good many hon. Members desire to speak upon this amendment, I shall confine my remarks to a very short space of time. I suppose hon. Members almost incur the suspicion of the Government when they speak against them on an amendment to the Address, and they are looked upon as unnecessarily, perhaps, nagging at the Government in the early stages of the session. I can honestly say that no such feeling animates me. I am sure there is a very deep and acute feeling on this question of expenditure in the country, and I believe it is the one thing people are thinking about, that is the cost of living and Government expenditure. I know if is the fashion for Ministers when they are criticised to say that it is all 407 the result of the Press agitation. It has become very much the fashion of late for industry to be attacked in the Press. The Press does not as a rule lead public opinion but it follows it. The Press follows public opinion.
I have had very limited experience in the country, but, speaking of my own experience in my own constituency, what the people are really thinking about is the question of the cost of living, and the enormous Government expenditure from day to day. I feel that the mentality of the present Government is that of a war Government, so far as finance is concerned. The Government has been used to spending millions in the last few years, and it has not been a Government that has examined, at any rate, during the last few years, every single penny of its expenditure. That, of course, is impossible during a war. What we want now is a peace Government which will come back to the time when the expenditure of every single shilling was carefully considered. Personally I believe that it will be almost impossible for the present Administration to really get rid of this mentality of a war Government so far as finance is concerned. It will be the most difficult thing in the world for them to do this, and if they are not determined to go in for rigid economy, the sooner we get rid of this Government the better. I am convinced that the present Government is being carried on with considerable waste and extravagance. If a man is very wealthy it does not matter very much his throwing money about, except that it is a very bad example to other people. If he is a poor man it is not only a very bad example, but it means inevitable ruin in the long run. At the present time the Government is a poor Government. Nobody can say that the State at the present time is in a position to throw money about. If the Government is extravagant, it is also a very vicious example to people outside. I know very well that when the Chancellor of the Exchequer or my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary gets up he will say: "Well, what do hon. Members really propose? What are your proposals to cut down expenditure?" I believe that expenditure can be cut down in very nearly every Department of the State. One sees extravagance in very nearly every Bill that passes through this House. It may seem a very small point, but my recollect- 408 tion goes back to the Transport Bill—I noted it at the time, and an amendment was put on the paper—under which a system of District Boards was set up with a separate audit account entailing a very large staff and considerable expense. If the Government had looked into the matter, it would have been perfectly easy to have used the existing Local Government Audit Staffs which carry out the present audits of the County Council. Under the Bill, however, the Government set up a separate Audit Department altogether with their own staff, entailing considerable extra expense. One has only to go down the list of Ministries and Departments to realise that this is going on practically everywhere at the present time.
The Government, I think, are aware to some extent of the seriousness of the public demand. Sir Maurice Hankey, on November 20th last, wrote a letter to all the Departments on behalf of the War Cabinet asking them to say what economies they were going to effect in their various Departments. They were told to send in their replies by January 1st, and they were told moreover that those economies had to come into force on February 20th, which is seven days hence. I should very much like to know what those economies are. That letter was sent to every single Department of the State, and it was pointed out that every single Department ought to be able to effect economy. I very much hope, when the Government comes to reply, that they will be able to tell us what the results have been. The other day a very interesting series of reports was issued from the Select Committee on National Expenditure, and I very much hope that the Government are going to carry out a great many of the recommendations of that distinguished Committee. At the present moment there is absolutely no check upon the expenditure of the various Departments. The Committee say:After the Treasury have sanctioned a vote for a Department, they do not appear to exercise any control over the expenditure of that Department. Each Department has an accounting officer who is appointed by the Department with the approval of the Treasury. He is, however, the servant of the Department, who can dismiss him. He reports to the Heads of the Department, and if they do not accept his recommendations he has no appeal.1.0 P.M.
How can you possibly expect to get real economy in the various Departments 409 under a system of that kind. You cannot possibly do it. You must have an independent man appointed by the Treasury, who can be dismissed by the Treasury, and who can look into the various concerns of the Department and report to the Treasury. Take a single instance; take the Air Estimates of 1919–20. Those estimates were presented to Parliament before the consent of the Treasury was obtained at all. No wonder that public money is being poured out like water at the present time. May I give a few other instances of what I mean by wasteful extravagance. At the present time we have the Wheat Commission with its staff and its paid officials. Why on earth cannot the Wheat Commission be absorbed by the Ministry of Food, so long as it exists? What are the duties of the Wheat Commission? The business of the Wheat Commission is the distribution of flour to bakers and the supervision of the bread supply. Why cannot the Ministry of Food deal with that matter? Surely it is for the Ministry of Food to look after the whole question of food so long as it exists and not to have this duplication of staffs and machinery. Economy can be obtained there. There is, however, a much larger question. We have the bread subsidy. One shilling per quarter is allowed by the Grading Prices Order to merchants and dealers supplying home grown wheat to the mills. It was pointed out by the Select Committee that sat the other day that that was an excessive price to pay, and the whole thing is a charge on the bread subsidy. There is another point about the bread subsidy which is still more serious. The bread subsidy, which, I believe, amounts to about £50,000,000 per year, is not only given to the makers of loaves or for the making of bread, but it is also given for the making of pastry, cakes, and fancy biscuits, and every single householder who uses flour for puddings, for batter, for pies, and for other purposes gets this subsidy. That is entirely wrong. The subsidy ought not to be given for anything in the shape of a luxury. It ought simply to be given for the necessities of life. It has been calculated by this Committee which I quoted just now that £14,500,000 out of the £50,000,000 is paid for purposes other than bread-making. 410 That is what I mean by extravagance. Do away with that. Take off the subsidy on these luxuries and you would save £1,200,000 a month. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will take that point into consideration.
There is another small instance (much smaller than the one I have just given). Take the Dock and Transport Executive Committee. It may have been abolished within the last few weeks. I hope that it has been. It was appointed in October, 1915, and its only duties at the present moment are those of advising as to port facilities available for Government cargoes. Why on earth cannot the Admiralty do that work? Surely those duties could be easily absorbed into an existing Department and done by an existing Staff. It has a paid staff, it has one secretary, one assistant secretary, four clerks, and five typists merely in order to advise as to port facilities available for Government cargoes. It is a one man job. I hope that this debate will have the effect of showing the right hon. Gentleman that a great many members of this House feel very strongly on this subject. I do not believe that it is the slightest good the Chancellor of the Exchequer merely coming down to this House and saying that the revenue balances the expenditure. That is not really the serious question at all. The serious question is to cut down your expenditure and then find the revenue to meet that expenditure. Cut your expenditure down to a minimum and it will be quite easy to find the revenue. If the Government are extravagant. I am quite certain the people outside will be extravagant, too, and in that case there is a greater demand for luxuries and prices necessarily go high. But if the Government itself sets a rigid example of economy in every department of the State it will have far-reaching results, not only in Government departments but in every household in the land, and if the hon. Member who made so brilliant a contribution to the Debate (Sir A. Steel-Maitland) goes into the Lobby with this Amendment I feel strongly that I must support him.
§ Captain LOSEBY
I rise to oppose the Amendment, not because it will serve to effect certain economies, for I take it there is no single Member of this House who is not in favour of, and who would not ardently support the policy of pressing upon the Government the need for economy in all matters of administration, 411 but because I am quite certain that if the Amendment were passed it would lead to opposition to measures of social reform by certain persons who for their own selfish purposes are anxious to stifle reform. I also oppose the Amendment because its passage would hamper the Government in its extremely difficult task of discharging certain moral obligations which, in the opinion of many of us, are incumbent upon it. What is this Amendment? It does not say that it regrets the expenditure has been allowed to remain above revenue; it simply refers to expenditure, and that must mean that certain Members of this House are in favour of the Government departing from the policy of reform upon which it had embarked. I ventured to describe it most respectfully as ultra-Conservative in its tendencies, and even reactionary. It is interesting because it shows the existence of a certain school of thought which is not inconsiderable in this country, and I beg that this House will look at this matter from that point of view. Last Wednesday we had a very interesting and straightforward speech from an hon. Gentleman who sits upon the Labour Benches, the Member for Bothwell (Mr. J. Robertson), a speech which on account of its outspokenness I cannot believe commended itself entirely to his colleagues. The hon. Member pointed out that the so-called Labour party in the matter of the Nationalisation of Mines did not stand for that alone, but that it also stood for the nationalisation of industry. However, the hon. Gentleman did not tell us, as he might have done, that the great driving force behind that party is out for communism. He did not tell us that the Independent Labour party is affiliated with the Third Internationale, which has its headquarters somewhere in the region of Russia. I venture to assert that my hon. Friends opposite do not represent Labour. They do not represent the best interests of Labour, but they do represent a great body of political thought in this country; to which force has been given by certain inherent evils in the system under which we live, notably extreme wealth on the one side and extreme poverty on the other. It is a school of thought that stands for the complete overthrow of the system of society under which we live, and it comprises a very large body of opinion, which we should be most foolish to despise.
412 What do we oppose to that? The answer of the hon. Member who brought forward this amendment—the triumphant answer—is that we are going to cut down expenditure. But cutting down expenditure must mean limiting reform, because reform cannot be carried on without expenditure, and that is their policy. It is a policy that would mean the complete overthrow of those who believe in the main in the system of civilisation under which we are now living. We of the National Democratic Party, small as we are in numbers, represent a big body of opinion in this country—a large body of opinion which can be party to no such policy. We cannot be allied or connected with, or indeed associated with, any reactionary policy. It is true that we are bitterly opposed to communism, but we are equally opposed to the reactionaries, and we will fight the one with as much determination as we will fight the other. We stand for a policy of generous and liberal reform in regard to the whole of our social life, not only because we believe that such reform is necessary and just, but also on the lower ground of expediency. Reference has been made to a certain matter which illustrates very well the point I desire to make. I have stated that I believe that the carrying out of this policy would not only assist those who would stifle reform but would prevent the Government from discharging certain moral obligations which, in the opinion of many of us, amount to debts of honour. With the exchange leaping about as it is, with the cost of living fluctuating, how can we put an exact limit on Government expenditure? How can we say it shall be this, and only this at even so short a period as three months?
I should like to refer to a particular case to which reference was made by the right hon. Gentleman who made such an eloquent speech in moving the Amendment. He referred to the case of the police pensioners. I want to follow that through and to show, arguing from that case, that it is not only impossible for the Government to decrease expenditure, but how in that particular case, if they discharge their moral obligation, they must increase their expenditure. I refer to all those people in receipt of payment from the State, the value of whose services was assessed prior to 1914. I make no apology for forcing this particular subject upon 413 the attention of the House on this particular Amendment, because if there is one thing of more vital importance than another, it is the demands which will inevitably be made upon the Treasury in the course of the next year or two must, at the earliest possible date, be limited and defined in order that we may say which we can honourably repudiate and reject, and which on the other hand cannot be denied. To pursue the opposite policy of closing our eyes to the existing facts would appear to be an act of purest folly. What do I think the House ought to do in matters like this? First, I think most sincerely that where there is a necessary reform, such as I have indicated, then it is the duty of the Members of this House to say so in language that cannot be mistaken and to take the responsibility of any expenditure upon themselves, not throwing upon the Government' a responsibility which it would be most difficult for them to bear. In regard to these people whose pension or payment was assessed prior to 1914, is it true that there is anything in the nature of a moral obligation? These pensions and State payments, I take it, were assessed with the object of providing the people with a certain standard of living according to the value of their services—to one man a bare existence, to another man a contribution to his means of existence, and to a third man a certain degree of comfort according to the value of his services. Take the case—which must be ruled out if the spirit of the Amendment be carried out—of the pensioner or civil servant assessed prior to 1914, and whose salary has not been readjusted subsequently to that year. Then it was only calculated to provide him with a living existence. Is it wise, is it equitable, can it be defended upon any grounds, that we should contribute to his means of existence not one half?
There are three questions in regard to a problem like this which immediately present themselves to all thinking men. Firstly, is there a debt of honour; can it be defined, and can it be liquidated in terms of money? Secondly, can we afford to acknowledge the debt of honour, to write it up in our books when it cannot be placed higher than a moral obligation? Thirdly, what is the penalty of default? Can we afford to discharge our debts of honour? Of that I have not a shadow of 414 doubt, and that the Government intend to discharge them I have not a shadow of doubt. But there are some things we cannot afford to do. We cannot allow it to be said that, at a time when half Europe was in a state of social upheaval, this country was so bankrupt a statesman, that it allowed its faithful servants, those who had served the State directly, to half live, to live in a state of semi-destitution at a time when certain other people, who had not done a hand's turn for the State, were allowed to become profiteers and take advantage of their country's necessity to accumulate fortunes for themselves. We cannot afford to allow it to be said that we lent a sympathetic ear to the people who came to us with grievances provided they were armed with sticks sufficiently big, while to those who pleaded poverty, who demanded equity and justice alone, we said that we could not afford it.
In our financial position there are certain things which are true. Of what does the wealth of a nation consist? We have had a certain amount of confusion of thought upon this subject. The wealth of a nation does not depend upon the temporary deficits or otherwise' of the Exchequer, but consists in the accumulated wealth of the individuals of the nation. It is true that owing to the great burden thrown upon us by the war, vast sums of money have left the Exchequer. Where did it go? We know that only 15 per cent. at the very highest estimate left this country and the remainder of it went back and remains liable to taxation. It is perfectly true that the Chancellor of the Exchequer stands to-day in a position of abnormal difficulty, possibly unable immediately to decide how the incidence of taxation must be directed without damaging the economic structure of the State, but I am quite certain that we must stand behind the Government in their policy of liberal and generous reform. We must not allow ourselves to falter on the way on account of a few whimperers. We must acknowledge above all, and first of all, moral obligations which amount to debts of honour and see that those debts of honour are discharged, and so long as there is a sign of superabundance of wealth in any direction it is most certain that we are not justified in pleading poverty and inability to meet our obligations. I am glad of the opportunity of expressing the attitude of my hon. 415 Friends who are with me in regard to this question. Nothing; is further from my thoughts than any desire to embarass the Government. I have spoken on this subject previously. I am only afraid they will allow themselves to be swayed, that they will turn aside at the cries and the screams of certain interested people, and that they will depart from the policy to which they have set themselves, and in which I, for one, most fervently believe.
§ Mr. MOSLEY
The eyes of this country-are fixed to-day upon this House in the hope that some concrete suggestion may be forthcoming which will enable us to cut down our vast national expenditure. They have been rewarded by the last speaker with a pellucid exposition of the social programme of the National Democratic party. He went on to argue that the curtailment of departmental waste necessarily entails a curtailment of social reform.
§ Captain LOSEBY
I was very careful to say nothing of the kind, but pointed out that the party which I represent was in favour in every direction of curtailing departmental expense, and opposed this Amendment only in so far as it would hamper the Government in its policy of liberal reform.
§ Mr. MOSLEY
I do not see why the hon. and gallant Gentleman should suspect the Amendment of hampering the Government in its task of social reform. I can see no reference in it to the Government's programme of social reform, and I am quite certain there was no intention whatsoever of that sort in the minds of the mover and supporters of the Amendment, but I certainly understood from the remarks of my hon. and gallant Friend that he resented fiercely any attempt on the part of private Members to induce economy in the Government on the ground that it must necessarily entail a curtailment of their social programme. Their social programme will not be curtailed by cutting down departmental waste; in fact, it will be considerably assisted by greater efficiency and economy in administration. That is the peculiar type of fallacy with which any Member of the House is confronted who attempts to argue economy, and the type of thing that is advanced upon the platform in this country, and it has brought the advocates of this line of 416 argument into a certain measure of ridicule. My hon. and gallant Friend went on to advance the old familiar argument that it was impossible to cut down any of the fixed obligations which the country has incurred during the war. The mover of the Amendment expressed in very explicit terms the conviction that that was impossible. The object of the Amendment is neither to curtail ameliorative reform nor to baulk in any way our obligations to those to whom we labour under a very great debt. The object of the Amendment as I understand it, and on the ground on which I support it, is merely to cut down departmental waste and to express the dissatisfaction which some of us feel very strongly on the subject of the failure of the Government to cut down these glaring instances of waste. Several instances of the kind have been advanced with great force and I look to the Government to deal with them. Failing that, I shall most certainly support the Amendment. I merely rise to protest against this line of fallacious argument which we have just heard and to which we have grown accustomed in debates of this sort. It is useless to argue against an Amendment of this sort that it aims at the curtailment of social reform. It certainly does not. It is equally futile to say that we advocate any surrender or repudiation of those obligations which we have incurred. It is a false and a futile line of argument and reflects no credit whatever on those who advance it. The Government must find better arguments than those to advance in support of its action, and I hope very much that they will have a more definite and less nebulous line of defence than that advanced by my hon. and gallant Friend (Captain Loseby).
§ Mr. RENWICK
The hon. Member (Mr. Mosley) told I have no doubt an astonished House that the eyes of the country for the first time were upon this House and were anxious to see what we were discussing in regard to finance. I do not know anything about, the eyes of the country, but at any rate the eyes of hon. Members must be elsewhere judging by the state of the benches. I am extremely grateful to the right hon. Gentleman and his friends who have given us this opportunity of saying a few words in regard to the most important question of the finances of this country. He asked 417 if all had been done that ought to be done to reduce expenditure. All that ought to be done has not been done. While I am prepared to try to forget and to forgive the mistakes that were made during the War, now that the War has been over 15 months I do think that the Government can no longer appeal to our sympathy when they make mistakes. We as business men are of the opinion that they are still making mistakes which ought to be ended at the earliest possible moment. The mover of the Amendment said that he would like to see a Government of business men. I do not want to see a Government of business men; I want to see business men here as critics and not as heads of Government departments. It is largely because of the business men who were at the head of the different controls during the War that we are suffering at the present time. Those gentlemen during the War had one specific order: "We want to win the war. Let us have the necessary munitions and materials to win the War, and never mind the expense." That is all very well, but it will not do during the time of peace. If you had a Government of business men you would have these men at the heads of department vieing against each other. There would be jealousy, and we should have a repetition of all the ills we have suffered from control. The best way to reduce expenditure is to get rid of the control at the present time. Let business men attend to their business, and let them take advantage of the present opportunity—and there never was a better opportunity—for carrying on the business of the country. Let them be free of the present business control and we should soon see an improvement in the state of our finances. Every one of us sympathises with the remarks of the opener of the Debate about the cost of living. It is extremely high, but I do not think we are within measurable distance of seeing any extensive fall in the cost of living. While I agree to a certain extent that the expenditure of the Government is the cause of keeping up the present high rate of living, that; is not all, because at the present time the cost of living in other countries is higher than it is here. While that is so we cannot expect that there will be any considerable fall in the cost of living here.
418 If I am asked what I would do as a business man to reduce the expenditure of the country, one of the first things, I would do would be to endeavour to put shipping in a better condition. The mismanagements of shipping by the Government at the present time is causing an enormous loss to the country. The popular idea is that all control of shipping has come to an end. That is not so. The ships are still more or less under control. Every voyage that we under take outside the coastal limit has to be licenced, and our ships are directed on voyages to which no prudent ship owner would send his vessels. The ships are sent out to bring certain cargoes and when we get them to this country there is no method of dealing with them. As a result valuable ships, some worth a million pounds, half a million or £300,000, are kept for weeks lying in the docks or the livers, and are being used as warehouses. There is no more expensive warehouse that can be imagined than a ship. If we could get our own control of these ships and the merchants could control their own cargoes we should never bring these ships into the ports unless absolutely sure that the cargoes on board the ships could be dealt with. It would ruin any ordinary firm to go on the methods that are being adopted at the present time. Timber, wheat, wool, meat and very recently tea, are in the hands of Government Departments. Large purchases have been made abroad, and I know that those purchases were made by Government agents who were well known to the vendors, and when it was known that it was the British Government that was buying the prices were put up accordingly. Many of these cargoes had to be paid for before they were shipped, and cost probably half a million or a million pounds per cargo. When they arrived here they deteriorated in quality because of the delays. Can anyone be surprised in the; face of facts like these that the exchanges are against us? We have had to buy extensive cargoes in the United States. The money has been paid in advance and we have not had a corresponding amount of exports to the United States. That is one of the primary causes of the American exchange being so much against us. I would advise every member interested in this subject to read the report, of the Liverpool 419 Steam Ship Association to the end of December last. It goes very fully into that subject and there is no body of men in the country who understands it better than they do.
I hope the Government will take the earliest opportunity of abolishing the control, and ceasing to be dealers in any sort of commodities, and that they will leave the business men free to carry on the commerce of the country. They recently sold their timber to syndicates and merchants who understand the business, and I hope they will do the same in regard to their other commitments. There may be a loss, but in the end it will be all to the good. I was going to say that I regret that we have not more time to discuss finance, and to suggest that we should have double time for the discussion of finance and half the time for the discussion of legislation, which very few people want to-day. I will not make that suggestion after the statement made the other day. I do hope that the Government representative will point out to the Chancellor of the Exchequer the desire of business men to be free of control. If we are freed from that control I have not the slightest doubt that we are on the eve of two or three of the very best years of trade that we have ever had.
§ Mr. SIMM
The hon. Member for Newcastle, who knows a great deal on this subject of shipping, has not drawn a very-harrowing tale of the woes of the ship owners, and for a very good reason. I would like in a few words to point out the fact that probably what is transpiring in the shipping world and other industries lies very much at the root of a good deal of the complaints this afternoon. Whatever the woes of shipowners may be, whatever difficulties they may have through interference by the Government, there is no doubt that investment in shipping industry in this country is very profitable. We read of men buying fleets of ships, the capital value of which might be somewhere in the neighbourhood of £500,000, and they are paying up to £3,000,000 for them. We cannot very well pay five or six times the real capital value of an article, which has got to yield a reasonable return in the way of profit, without charging high prices. What is true of shipping is equally true of the cotton industry. The only reason why 420 these high prices are being paid for cotton mills is that very large profits are being made.
The high prices are not due to the matters referred to by the mover and seconder of the Amendment. They are not due to Government expenditure. I do not see why, if the Government are supposed to spend an extra £10,000,000 upon old age pensions, someone should go and buy his wife an expensive fur or a necklace of pearls for £10,000 or £20,000. Yet we are told now that the more the Government spend the more the private individual spends. My contention, whatever the Government spends, is that there is a very large number of people who work for their daily bread and are spending now to their utmost limit, and it is on these people that the attention of the Government should be settled. There is no woman who comes out of a grocer's or a draper's shop to-day without being discontented. She may go in with a few pounds in her pocket and she will have very little left, and realising that women are now probably 30 per cent. of the total electorate it is a very important matter for those who control political machines to keep their eye on this influence. Most women to-day can purchase very little with the money which they have got. I feel sure that neither shipping nor the block on the railways is the big factor. There are some oilier factors at work. It used to be said that we were a nation of shopkeepers, but the impression is growing among a large number of people that we are now becoming a nation of thieves, with everybody out to plunder everybody else.
Take wool in particular. The Board of Trade ought to toll us all about profiteering in this country. Large powers were placed in their hands by this House only a few months ago. Up to the present we have not seen much gain from the use of those powers. I am certain that the Government would do a great deal to allay discontent and create public confidence if they would go right to the root of the matter and make plain to the public what are really the causes of high prices. Unless they do that we are not going to allay discontent and social unrest. We have an example in our woollen trade. A Return has been issued through the Board of Trade sectional committees from which we learn that in one particular class of goods as much as 2,000 421 per cent. profit has been made. In this country people are paying to-day £10 and £11 for a suit of clothes that could be bought for £3 in 1914. The increased cost is due in part to the high price of raw wool, but not a great deal of it, because if the Government were making a large profit on wool it would lessen the amount of taxation, but if the Government gave the wool away that would not lessen the price of this commodity. We are told in this Return that we cannot blame the spinners because if the spinners did not make the profit the merchants would. In other words, if we are not robbed by A. we must be robbed by B., but robbed we must be. Surely there must be a power somewhere by which this can be cheeked.
I am quite certain that it is not the increased expenditure in which the Government indulge that is responsible for the existing mischief. Shipping seems to be very prosperous. Money is being put into cotton mills. They are being bought at from four to ten times the cost which prevailed a short time ago. In Blackburn some confectioner has been called before a local court and punished for selling a box of chocolates at l½d. beyond the proper price, yet mills have changed hands in this very town at a profit of £200,000 or £300,000 on the capital value of four or five years ago. There is no use in this House of making nets to catch minnows while sharks are allowed to float through. In tackling this matter I would urge the Government to be strong and resolute. It is not a matter of amending Government transport, cheese paring by cutting down a pound or two here or there, or asking Admiralty officials or somebody connected with the Board of Trade or the Transport Department to do the work, that is going to relieve the situation. What we want is some means whereby, if these large profits are going to be made, they will not go into the hands of people who are exploiting our present situation, which arises out of abnormal circumstances. We have now high prices for cloth in this country. We can make cloth say at 15/- a yard. It would be sold to Germany, Austria, or somebody else at £3 a yard, and because of the big prices obtained overseas the people of this country must pay high prices for the cloth. I do not see that that necessarily follows. There must be 422 means by which this can be checked. I urged the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Baldwin) to press this matter upon the Government to see if some strong means can be designed whereby those who are dispoiling the public will have the revenue diverted from their own pockets into the pockets of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. When they reduced the Excess Profits Tax from 80 per cent. to 40 per cent., it was assumed that some reduction in prices would follow. No reduction has followed, but there has been an upward tendency. I hope, therefore, in face of the difficult circumstances which we may have for two or three years to come, that not only shall we urge the question of increased production, but that we shall see to it that when increased production does take place it is not going merely to give a bare subsistence level of wages to the great body of people and inflate the profits of those who are carrying on the industry.
§ Mr. WILSON-FOX
The speech to which we have just listened must, I think, be looked upon as showing a very full appreciation of the symptoms of the financial disease from which this country is suffering with all other countries of the world, and I welcome this discussion from that point of view because it affords this House the opportunity of considering this great subject from the widest possible point of view. We must all endeavour to-day, so far as we can, to avoid minor issues and deal with the deep underlying causes to which must be attributed our financial condition. I rise certainly in no spirit of antagonism or opposition to the Government. I hope this Amendment will not be pressed to a division, for I should not go into the Lobby in support of it. From the fact that the Amendment is one which should not be supported in the Lobby, it does not follow-that it is an improper or wrong Amendment. I was exceedingly glad to hear the brilliant and thoughtful speech in which my hon. Friend moved the Amendment, and I was very glad that he did not limit his review of the position to expenditure only. I think another hon. Member who spoke on the Amendment was mistaken in supposing that it was the desire of those who supported this Amendment to limit it to the very narrow question of expenditure. On the contrary it was intended to cover the whole 423 field of our financial position, and to see by what means the position could be dealt with. I have had an opportunity during the last three years of studying the question from the point of view of expenditure solely, as a member of the various Committees on National Expenditure, and I am aware from what I have learned that very fallacious views are often held and are very loosely expressed in the Press upon the subject of what is possible merely by the checking of waste and the cutting off of what is looked upon as unnecessary expenditure. That is a policy which can be carried a great deal too far in many directions.
In connection with the Ministry of Shipping, the opinions which my colleagues and I formed were that it was very doubtful whether the cutting down of staff in October last had not in that department—which it has been rather the fashion in the press to refer to as if a policy of "scrap the lot" was right—been carried too far. It was our view that so far from it being necessary to scrap the officials who were still left in October, it was doubtful whether they ought not to have been augmented. We stated in our Report:The staff employed was not too large, having regard to the immense amount of business which had to he transacted. … On the 1st October, 1919 the numbers employed at headquarters had been reduced to 1,598, and since that date over 112 persons have received notice and left. … All the witnesses who gave evidence on this matter agreed that the staff had been reduced almost too rapidly, and the work was being done with difficulty in some branches of the Ministry in consequence. … There is a vast mass of accountancy work and a great number of financial transactions which have to be concluded. The financial branch has therefore, tended to increase somewhat, and there has been much difficulty in finding trained men to carry on the work.And it is added:The Committee is of opinion that the work of the Ministry has been performed with remarkable efficiency.2.0 P.M.
I think it just and right to quote the observations from that Report. I think they are indicative of the truth in regard to other Government departments. Particularly in connection with the new departments set up during the war there has been a great deal of unnecessary extravagance and waste. Hurriedly or- 424 ganised departments, staffed by men who have not been accustomed to the work they are called upon to do in a hurry, cannot possibly be as efficient as is desirable. But at the same time I am perfectly satisfied that the greater portion of the waste and inefficiency is over, and that if our finances are to be put on a sounder basis there is not going to be a very great deal more done by way of cutting down in the departments themselves. I am not able to give a certificate to the same effect in connection with the Disposals Board of the Ministry of Munitions. I am not quite satisfied, on such evidence as I have had, that the work of that department is proceeding with the efficiency and rapidity which we have a right to expect. Therefore, though I make a general observation as to the improbability that we shall save a great deal by cutting off excessive expenditure, I do that with the qualification that there are directions to which the attention of this House can still usefully be turned. I accordingly hope that the Government will not lose any time in connection with the setting up of a Committee on National Expenditure, for there is no doubt that if the operations of that Committee have no other value they certainly have the value of acting as a scarecrow. The fact that the Committee through its various sub-committees is going round the departments making inquiries with the full authority of this House, undoubtedly exercises a very strong moral effect upon the officers in those departments. The mere knowledge that all their transactions and operations are liable to be inquired into at any moment I am satisfied does exercise a most salutary effect. That is the place where, after all, economies, if they are to be effected, can be effected.
In that respect I think that the Government will be the first to acknowledge the assistance which they have received from Members of this House in performing that work, when it has been carried out in the way it was carried out, that is without any desire to interfere with the policy of the Government, but when the policy had been settled to give their assistance in seeing that the expenditure incurred was no more than was adequate to give effect to the policy. I think the House will expect to hear at the to which the Government have come in earliest possible moment the decisions 425 respect of the various recommendations in matters of detail which have been made by that Committee. There were a number of reports published recently, and so far there has been no opportunity for the House to hear what the Government propose to do or have done in respect of them. There was one recommendation made by the first Committee on National Expenditure, and repeated by subsequent Committees, to the effect that in the opinion of the Committee this House can not secure to itself a real measure of financial control until it places itself in a better position to control the estimates. The Chancellor of the Exchequer last year informed the House that the proposal was viewed with sympathy but that such a Committee could not be set up then. The hope was certainly held out that the recommendations of the National Expenditure Committee would be carried out in the following year. I hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be able to announce to the House to-day or at some early date that it is his intention to advise the Government to set up an Estimates Committee or Estimates Committees without further delay.
At present, and for years past under the procedure of this House it is inevitable that the Estimates of the Government, when presented, are not reviewed in the careful and detailed manner in which they would be reviewed by a business man or business firm to whom estimates of such magnitude were presented. The House is not to blame for having failed in the past to make effective criticisms on the Estimates, for it has had crammed into a few hours the only opportunity of discussing questions of policy, and it is very difficult to combine a discussion of that nature with effective criticism of detail. On the other hand if, before the Estimates come before the House for discussion, they have been presented to an expert committee of this House, assisted by expert advice, and able to call witnesses, then the House when it comes to consider whether or not it will accept the Estimates in their entirety will at any rate have the knowledge that some work has been performed in advance for it, and its attention can be directed to the points which in the opinion of the Committee should be brought to its notice and be reviewed by it. I 426 hope, therefore, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be able to make some satisfactory announcement on that point either to-day or at an early date. I do not at all wish to-day to adopt the common attitude of exortation to the Government to do its duty so far as it can in this matter of economy. I honestly believe, and it has been already admitted in connection with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that in attempting to do so, if I did, I should be preaching to the converted. I am perfectly satisfied that this Government has no desire or intention to prolong for a moment the waste that some months or years ago was going on.
I have pointed out, in connection with the Expenditure Committee, that its effect was mainly moral. I think that the value of an Estimates Committee would, whilst a practical useful help, also have a very good moral effect. Some of us in the past have been in the habit of asking, when Financial Resolutions were presented to the House, that better information should be supplied to us in the form of White Papers than the Departments had been previously in the habit of producing. There is no doubt whatever that the procedure in the early part of last year in regard to Finance Resolutions was rather slip-shod, both as to the manner in which the figures were presented and as to the points to which they were directed, and as to the time given for consideration in advance. I think anyone who has interested himself in the financial discussions which have taken place during last year must admit that the efforts of such portions as those who have devoted special attention to this question have been crowned with a considerable measure of success, and that is what is likely to be the moral effect on Government departments of any further precautions which this House may see fit to take to make more stringent its control over the expenditure of this country. That is the primary duty of this House, and I take this opportunity of insisting upon it before any of the financial estimates or measures of the Session come before us. In the discussion of an earlier Amendment on the Address I think the right hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Brace) referred to questions of high finance and said that at first he had been very much mystified by those financial 427 matters when they came before the House, but that after some experience he, had come to the conclusion that they were all quite easy. To that I would reply that it may be easy enough to understand financial questions if one is ready to go into them closely, examine them carefully and apply one's brains to see what they mean, but there is no subject upon which looser thinking is more common. I therefore think that it is of the utmost importance that every Member of this House who is called upon to serve upon any committee which is dealing with these financial questions, which are of such vast importance to the nation, should devote himself to it and give that time and attention which is necessary if the work is to be satisfactorily performed. I say that advisedly because Members on the Benches opposite have not shown in my experience that assiduity in assisting in this work and the gaining of valuable experience for themselves at the same time which one might have expected, and those of us who believe that the working classes of this country will in the future exercise greater legitimate influence on the working of the Government hope that they will see their way to fit themselves for the positions which in time they will come to fill by availing themselves to the full of these opportunities. It is not right that the scrutiny of these financial matters should be left solely in the hands of that limited group of Members who made it a special study. I hope that the Leaders of the Labour party will give their attention to this which I regard as a very important matter.
The hon. Member who moved the Amendment directed the attention of the House to the importance of saving. One of the great benefits of the War has been that, largely owing to the efforts of that patriotic body, the War Savings Committee, the habit of thrift has been to a largo extent encouraged amongst the masses of the people who in this country, for reasons not entirely their fault, did not save at all. I speak advisedly of a habit of thrift. There is no doubt that like every other habit it is a practice which grows with exercise. As people see their savings increase one may hope, and hope rightly judging from human nature, that the habit will go on and be 428 confirmed in its exercise. During the War besides the personal motive there was the still more powerful patriotic motive. We cannot possibly expect the patriotic motive to operate in the days which are to come to the same extent as it operated, and rightly, during the War. I hope that the Government will pay special attention to this subject now that the power of saving has been very largely transferred, and is being still further transferred, from those classes of the community by whom in the old days practically the whole of the savings of the country were effected to the masses of the people who in the past have not been accustomed to save at all. There is no subject more important from the point of view of national economy. Unless saving goes on and the supply of capital in the country is maintained with increase of industry, this country cannot make the progress and products cannot be increased to the extent without which we cannot hope to regain our financial health. I repeat there is no subject more important, and it must be considered carefully and discreetly with a view to seeing what incentives can be offered to those to whom the appeal is made to increase their savings. It was once said to me that offers of high interest are in themselves no use, and that it is no good promising a man twenty per cent. on a balance of twopence-halfpenny. I think that is very largely true. I think it was because a new means of saving was presented to the public in a form in which they understood it, that the issue of the 15s. 6d. War Savings Certificates was so great a success. I think the Government should specially consider in what way, under peace conditions, the savings of the people may be promoted. They have also got to lay down a hard and fast rule that the mere fact that the people on the security of the State may be willing to save and to invest their savings must not be a reason for applying the proceeds of those savings to the discharge of the annual bill of expenditure. There should be a rigid distinction between capital and income. If the Government will review the situation and look at the vast opportunities throughout the Empire for reproductive expenditure, which in the past has played so small a part in our national finances, a new era 429 of development and production can be brought about, and by this means we may gradually effect a much more rapid production of our national wealth and give greater opportunities for trade than the great majority of people have hitherto recognised as being available.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I join in the request which my hon. Friend who has just sat down has made to the Government in the course of his interesting speech, particularly with regard to the setting up of the Estimates Committee. That request is no new one, but I would remind my right hon. Friend in charge of the Treasury that it was first recommended in 1918, with the result of very nearly a year's consideration at intervals by members representing all parties in the House. It was again mentioned in a White Paper which was issued in June, I think, of last year, and the whole subject has been constantly brought to my right hon. Friend's mind, and now we have, I think, on the part of at least five of the speakers who have joined in this debate to-day, the request again repeated. There is nothing like repetition, and I am going to say it all over again.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. Chamberlain)
Will the right hon. Gentleman assist me by saying exactly what he supposes the functions of this Committee are to be, and how they will affect the powers of the House of Commons and the responsibility of Ministers?
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
That would entail a speech of at least twenty minutes, but I will read from the second page of the ninth report of the Select Committee on National Expenditure, paragraph 8, which I think it will be useful to get on the OFFICIAL REPORT, as to the recommendations which were then made:The great majority of the replies to the questions which were circulated favour the principle that the estimates should be subjected to examination by a Select Committee. Among those who express that view are all the Officers of the House who were consulted—Mr. Speaker, the Chairman of Ways and Means, the Deputy Chairman"—[myself at that time]—"and the Clerk of the House. We are unanimously of the same opinion.We recommend that at the beginning of each session there should be appointed, by the customary procedure, two Standing Committees on Estimates, each consisting of 15 members. After some experience of the 430 working of these Committees, it may be found desirable to add a third." They go on to say that they have considered the alternative of a single committee with a larger membership, which they, after consideration, dismissed, and the concluding part of paragraph 8 is:We have considered also whether the Committees which will deal with estimates should also deal with accounts, the Public Accounts Committee being amalgamated with them. We are of opinion that the two matters should be kept separate and that the Public Accounts Committee should continue with the same composition and functions as hitherto. It would be advisable, however, for some of its members to be appointed to serve on the Estimates Committees also in order that the bodies should be in close touch with each other's work.As far as my recollection goes, the estimates would be submitted to these Committees and their reports would be submitted and would come to the floor of this House and be presented by the Chairman or by some other Member delegated for the purpose, and therefore the whole question of policy with regard to the estimates would thereby be reserved in its entirety to the House itself, which, as my right hon. Friend will agree, is a most important matter. I think I will read paragraph 12, which deals with that point:It should not be within the competence of the Committees to make any recommendations inconsistent with the policy implied in the estimates. Policy is a matter for the Government, and for the House itself, and not for Standing Committees on Estimates. To transgress this rule would be to invite controversy within the Committees, and to endanger the success of their working. Although 'policy' cannot be defined in precise terms, the experience of the Estimates Committee set up in 1912, and of our own Committee—from both of whose references the consideration of matters of policy was specifically excluded—shows that in practice the line is not difficult to draw.I would just add this, as an additional argument in regard to the pressure which has been put on my right hon. Friend. Constantly, and indeed quite rightly, he and other members of the Executive charge this House with making general appeals for economy, and then taking practically every method open to them of increasing the expenditure. There is no one who has sat in this House for anything like four or five years who does not know that there is a very large amount of truth in that. I say that, as far as my experience teaches me, where there is such a Committee as that set up, two Committees working, with 15 members 431 each, and they come down to this House with their considered opinions on these estimates, it would be much more difficult for Members of this House to urge additional expenditure upon the Government, and the Government would have a really powerful shield, so to speak, and defence against any attack which came against them from any part of the House.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
Am I right in understanding that the right hon. Gentleman suggests that on the estimates being introduced they should be automatically referred to special Committee and should not be taken into consideration by the House until that Committee has reported?
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
That is the essence of the whole proposal. I will repeat again, because it is really important, this point of the irresponsibility of this House in pressing these demands upon the Executive in regard to estimates. We all know, those of us who have been members for any length of time, how very chary the House is to upset decisions of its own Committees. We know that on private Bills particularly, and that is probably the best example. Over and over again there is a real and very proper reluctance on the part of the House as a whole to go against the decisions of its own Committees, and a most important shield and safeguard and defence would be at once placed in the hands of the Government were such a Committee set up as is here suggested.
§ Sir E. CARSON
May I ask my right hon. Friend if it would be proposed to send back to the Committee any increased expenditure which was proposed by the House, or by any section of the House, before that was considered by the House? I do not know whether that is part of the proposition.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I do not think, as far as my recollection of the report concerned goes, that that has been considered, and there might be very considerable difficulties in practice in it, but as far as I am concerned, I think, were it beyond a certain amount, it might be a very desirable thing indeed to do. Only in detail, not in principle, do I disagree with the suggestion at all. Of course, as I am reminded, there is 432 always the Report stage of the Estimates, and it might be a good practical suggestion that, before the Report stage, we should have on a specific point further information from the Committee, who have already reported on the particular item. Here is this very careful, well-thought-out report by a body of Members of this House, past and present, which commands very great respect and weight, and I would add that it has the altogether unexceptionable authority of Mr. Speaker and the Chairman of Ways and Means. And I would just say this of both those high officers of the House. They are both Members of vast experience; they have both been Members of the House for a very long time. I think that Mr. Speaker for nearly ten years was Chairman of Ways and Means, and Mr. Deputy Speaker, I think, has been Chairman of Ways and Means for quite a long time. You have this proposal backed by such authorities as these. I think it is a very serious responsibility if the Government, after all the debates in the House, and the reports backed by such authority as I have indicated, do not yield to what I think is the almost unanimous wish of the House, that these committees should be set up this year.
I leave it at that, and pass on to points I desire to make on the question of general expenditure and economy, because we all know that economy is very desirable, but, unless it is accompanied by production in the present state of affairs, we may effect some improvement, but the improvement will in no sense meet the need. I want to put this point to the consideration of the House in asking for production all round. What we really have to look to is that underproduction compared with the 1914 standard is common to the whole world. There is abroad, in all the great centres on which we used to rely for the production of goods which one considered essential for its own existence, the spirit of the manual worker which says—and it is in operation, for its results are already felt—"I do not see why I should go on working these long hours for wages I consider inadequate, and allow other men to reap the benefits of my labour." That is the position which is existent to-day in Europe. I have been told on excellent authority that it is no use our looking for such grain crops in some of the countries that we used to, because the 433 tillers of the soil there are taking up that attitude. We know that is a position which has been indicated to us from these benches, and throughout meetings in this country wherever we go, that men say they are not going to devote their labours for what they consider to be unjust or unfair private profits. I am not arguing for a moment whether that is a right or wrong position, but I do say this, that in our appeals for increased production, and in the estimates which we may base upon getting increased production, we shall not be practical unless we recognise that fact. I hope and pray there may be an improvement on it, but that it is a fact I do not think anyone for a moment will doubt. How long it may take to alter that psychology of the particular situation I do not know, or how it is to be done. I am only now saying that that ought to be taken into calculation by those whose business it is to estimate what will be the increase in the world's wealth, say, in twelve months or two years.
Expenditure depends upon policy, and we shall get from His Majesty's Government their policy when the various Estimates are laid before the Committee—their policy on the Army, their policy with regard to the Navy, their policy with regard to the Air, and the policy we have already been debating in relation to countries other than our own. There has been without any doubt a most serious disregard by the Government during the past year of the urgent need for cutting down expenditure in the great spending departments of the State. It is shown of course by what I hope is to be sweeping reductions in the estimates. But that is past and gone. I think the Lord President of the Council charged me yesterday with a lack of the necessary Parliamentary stimulation and remarked on the anodyne nature of my speech. But I never find very much use in crying over spilt milk. The thing to do is to recognise what is past, and to try and readjust your position to the present and future, taking what lessons you can from it. Mere denunciation for debating purposes never had very much attraction for me, and I am afraid it never will. I simply make that statement. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I suppose, is already in the throes of battle with the various departments. I wish him well in it. But if we are to bring down our expenditure within the 434 limits of what the nation demands, he will have to stand to his guns in a way which, I am afraid, he did not succeed in doing last year.
As has been pointed out in two or three very useful speeches to-day, these questions of policy and expenditure are reacting upon the homes. One of the main reasons of food, boots, and everything else costing more is because of this vast unreproductive expenditure. The Government has been borrowing and that borrowing ought immediately to cease. It is because the credits which have been created, and met by the paper currency, have been so unreproductive that our financial position is, at any rate, one of the main motive forces of our financial position being what it is. I again urge this question upon the Government. I know my right hon. Friend the Chancellor opposite cannot control the policy of every department. I am sure, however, I am expressing the. feeling of the whole House and of the country on this point—it is the policy that wants altering Early last session when we were talking about estimates I raised the point, and with the assistance of my right hon. Friend, we succeeded in keeping on the floor of the House questions of policy. That is the thing. It is at the source that these things have to be attended to.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I am sure that unless this matter is grappled with in the proper spirit by the Government, in a spirit which hitherto they have not shown, there is no hope for some years to come of a return to financial stability.
§ Sir PHILIP PILDITCH
I think the House will be grateful to the right hon. Member (Sir Donald Maclean)—and I for one am grateful to him—for the suggestion with which he commenced his speech. It seems to me to be the first time that any practical suggestion has been made towards carrying out that partnership between the Government and the House which was adumbrated in the Resolution we passed in October. The House then undertook to support the Government in all measures which would involve economy and the saving of expenditure. I think the House would he exceedingly interested to know how far the Chancellor of the Exchequer is prepared to agree that this particular suggestion would be a step towards 435 carrying out the policy suggested in that Resolution. The Debate this afternoon has departed a good deal from the lines on which it started. Personally, I could have wished that the Chancellor could have been here during the earlier part of the Debate. I listened with very great interest to the earlier speeches. With a good deal of what the hon. Gentlemen said: with a good many of the instances they brought forward where economy here and there might be effected, I agree, though not with all. The difficulty I feel is—perhaps other Members feel it too—in regard to the Motion. There seemed to be little correspondence between the speeches delivered and the Motion they were intended to support. I really do not quite know where we stand and whether or not the Amendment is going to be pressed to a division. If a division is called, I should feel a very great difficulty, because, whilst on the one hand I do not want to deprecate any instigation to the Government to examine, to economise, and to cut down unnecessary expenditure and, indeed, to keep a strong check over necessary expenditure, for I think that economy with one exception—that of greater production is the most important matter before us at the present time, and the most important article of national faith, I find it very difficult to reconcile the facts with the Motion before us.
That Motion definitely seeks to fix upon the Government the fall in the £ and the increase in the cost of living. Personally I feel that no case whatever has been made out for the theory that in any substantial way either the fall in the value of the £ or the increase in the cost of living can be laid to the door of the Government and its financial policy. I could imagine a Motion placed before the House in such a fashion that I should have been very glad to support it—a motion intended, as it were, to ginger up the Government on the lines of economy. In the economy debates in October, the right hon. Gentleman produced a motion of his own, but for reasons that were rather obscure at the moment that motion was not brought to an issue; it called upon the Government to effect drastic and sweeping reductions of expenditure in the current financial year. That motion, as 436 the right hon. Gentleman said a few moments ago, was confined to the future. There were no recriminations in it as to the past. The motion which we are asked to support to-day goes far beyond that in extent and in principle, because it does attribute to Government policy, and sets it out to the people of this country, that our loss of credit, the increased price of food, and the difficulties of living, are due to the action of the Government during the past year.
I mentioned a few moments ago that there was a resolution which was unanimously accepted by the House in October promising support to the Government in any proposal however drastic, for the reduction of expenditure and the diminution of debt. A resolution of that kind, or better still, some concrete proposals, intended to give effect to the proposed partnership or joint action between the Government and the House, would certainly have received my support, and I believe the unanimous support of this House. I had hoped that something might, come out of the proposal made by one of the Leaders of the Opposition groups who suggested that the House should be taken more into the confidence of the Government upon this subject. There is a proposal standing in the name of the Noble Lord, the Member for Oxford (Lord H. Cecil), which suggests that before any Bill is allowed to pass beyond its first reading an estimate of the cost of carrying it out should be approved by the House. I am not sure how far that is practical. I think it would be difficult, but may I suggest that if we cannot carry out that proposal that some; such checking proposition might be made use of. I remember quite well when we had the Housing Pill before us. I am sure nobody desires very serious economy in regard to housing.
§ Sir P. PILDITCH
I am speaking more of the aims of the housing policy. We need economy in the expenditure. Nobody suggests that we should go back on our housing policy, but the principle I have referred to was involved, and I think an estimate should have been placed before the House and definitely approved before the Housing Bill was passed. I know there was an estimate at a later stage. At first it was six million pounds, then 7½ million pounds, and larger estimates followed.
§ Sir P. PILDITCH
It has been estimated that the cost will probably be £40,000,000 or £50,000,000 a year if the house which the nation requires are to be produced I think it would be a valuable thing for the right hon. Gentleman to have had for his assistance in forecasting his liabilities some proposal of that kind whereby no legislation in this House could get past a certain stage unless the present and contingent liabilities likely to arise out of it were faced by the House. I have listened to the various speeches this afternoon very anxiously and I wanted to support this Amendment if I possibly could, even to the extent of voting against the Government However, I find it really impossible to get any justification for supporting this proposal. The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken said there had been vast expenditure arising out of vast policies, but he did not indicate even one of them. I want to know what particular policies ho took exception to. I listened with careful attention to the suggestions made by the proposer and seconder of this Amendment, but I do not believe that the whole of those suggestions would make any appreciable difference in the financial situation of the country.
My hon. Friend (Mr. G. Locker-Lamp-son) suggested that we could save a considerable sum by differentiating in the subsidy on flour used for bread and pastry, cakes and biscuits. Such a differentiation would be so expensive that whatever saving was effected would disappear in that way. The expenditure upon Russia was mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment (Sir A. Steel-Maitland), and his argument apparently was that it was a great pity that we have involved ourselves in that expenditure, which amounts to something like £60,000,000— £49,000,000 up to October and £15,000,000 since. I would certainly like, to have that £00,000,000 in our own pockets now, but I would sooner have spent that money upon the efforts we made then than have the money in our pockets now. In my opinion that expenditure when it was made was thoroughly justified by the prospects of those who were endeavouring to unhold a sane Government in Russia, and had our Allies been as whole-hearted in the matter 438 of giving the democratic element in Russia, a fair chance as we were the result in Russia would have been very different.
It was our misfortune and not our fault that £60,000,000 appears to have been thrown away. It would indeed have paid us to spend more in that way had Japan and the United States and France been willing to stand by us. Had they done so the volunteer leadership to which the Prime Minister referred the other night, whose mistakes we know had a good deal to do with the result, would have been subject to the Allies' advice, and they would have been able to keep some measure of control. The whole state of affairs in Russia would have been different if our Allies had done, as much as we had done. Although this is not the occasion to discuss this point, I wish to say that I feel absolutely unrepentant as to the £60,000,000, and I would not have saved it under the circumstances if I could have done so.
Whilst being anxious to urge the Government to economise in every possible direction, and being fully conscious of the enormous place that economy should take in our national life, I am not prepared to take any part, in making the public believe that the cause of our present economic position, the depreciation of currency and the cost of living is anything which it would have been possible to avert very seriously by any action the Government could have taken. To attempt this would be leading the minds of the people entirely in the wrong direction. A very large part of what it is possible to do to put us on our feet again can be done by the people themselves. So far as the Government are influential in the matter at all, I am bound to say that our Government, perhaps more than any other Government amongst the belligerents or Allied nations in the world, have done the very best possible that they could for the country and are worthy of our thanks.
§ Sir E. CARSON
I could not help reflecting during the course of this debate; upon the contrast that there is between the way in which these charges are made against the Government inside this House and outside. If we are to believe the Press there are overwhelming cases that can be made against the Government on the question of economy, and they have 439 led to all the evils and difficulties and agitations from which the country is now suffering. At by-elections, which are fairly frequent, it is always told the people by a certain section of candidates and their supporters that every increase in the cost of living, and every difficulty in procuring what is necessary for carrying on one's life, is due to the mismanagement of the Government in our finances. That must mean that the Government have maliciously and intentionally allowed our expenditure to continue so high that our national credit has been shaken and that the people are suffering from an increased cost of living. If there were a particle of truth in that charge, we ought not to be, here supporting the Government, and I cannot help reflecting upon the fact that despite all the stimulus obtained from a section of the newspapers, the House in all quarters has been empty while this charge against the Government has been made. That is particularly true of the Labour Members, who are the sole custodians, according to themselves, of the interests of domestic life and of the domestic prosperity of the working people of this country.
§ 3.0 P.M.
§ Sir E. CARSON
Will you please leave me alone? The House is getting very sick of you and your interruptions. The truth of the matter is that a great deal of this outcry about economy is hypocritical, and it will remain hypocritical until Members of this House have summoned up courage to say "No" to the requests of their constituents. Just let me take last year: There was a motion pressing economy upon the Government. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, as I well remember, made a very solemn and serious speech in which he said that he hoped he would not have to bring in any new taxation provided, that he was not asked for any new expenditure. The House applauded, and everybody said that it was the one matter above all others, and that we must take care that there must be no new expenditure. What happened? In a few days they came down and asked for £10,000,000 a year more for old-age pensions. That was a grand opportunity. Did any man get up in this House and oppose it? Did any man get up and say that there would 440 have to be increased taxation if we allowed this £10,000,000 a year, a very substantial sum? Not at all. Everybody supported it, and I think everybody rightly supported it; but, having supported it and taken that line— I only take it as an instance—what is the good of coming here and saying, or of going into the constituencies and telling the country that it is the fault of the Government that the national credit has depreciated and that the cost of living has increased because the Government has allowed expenditure. It is not the Government that allows expenditure; it is this House that compels the Government to go on with the expenditure. I could understand either newspapers or candidates or speakers making these high charges about expenditure if at the same time they explained to the people the methods by which this expenditure is brought about. Then they would be honest. But they go down and they complain: We have added this year another £100,000,000 to the expenditure of the country, already nearly exhausted by war." "Shame," says the audience. Does the member say that £10,000,000 of that expenditure is to make our old age pensioners a little happier? Not at all. I say that the whole thing is founded on hypocrisy, and there is not the slightest use in our imagining that we are doing anything practical as long as we are participants in the hypocrisy. Take another case from last year—housing. I have forgotten the figures, but the hon. Member who has just spoken says: "it will cost £40,000,000 a year or thereabouts."
§ Sir E. CARSON
How is that treated in the country. "They have not given half enough; otherwise, we would have the houses. Build them no matter what they cost. Get on with the job." Yes, and they then go and tell the people: "Look at the expenditure of the Government. Increased pensions to our heroes! I do not know how many millions last year, I think £20,000,000. Is anybody prepared to oppose that? Education! I did see that a noble Lord who owns a newspaper did suggest that we might cut down the education grant. Who is going to get up and propose that in this House, whatever they may do elsewhere? 441 Again, there is the expenditure on the railways. I do not know what we are losing on the railways, but I have never heard anybody get up in this House and say, "You must get rid of that liability on the taxpayer; you must increase the Freights and the fares." Why do not some of these Gentlemen, who are so much in favour of economy, get up and preach, as the great remedy, the increase of fares. They throw it on the; Government and then they abuse the Government for doing it. There is the bread subsidy. If I am right, it comes to something like 90 millions a year.
§ Sir E. CARSON
Well, say over 50 millions. It is a kind of artificial treatment for the purpose of carrying on the country during these difficult times. But it would be a very natural thing to knock it off. It is not an economic way of dealing with the cost of living. It would be far better to see wages raised, or many other things happen than that. I have listened to this Debate but nobody has got up and proposed that we should drop the bread subsidy. Why not, if you are really in earnest about your economy?
§ Sir E. CARSON
Put a substantive motion down and the Government will give time for it. We shall then see how many will vote for it. That is the best way to deal with it. The reason why I object to this kind of motion is that I believe this way of carrying on, at a time when the country is probably in the most difficult condition it ever was, is, whatever may be the motive of hon. Members opposite, creating vast dangers among the people, because they are being led to believe that you are wasting in every direction money that might well go to them. I hold that to be a fatal doctrine to teach them. I have sat here through nearly the whole of the debate. What are the remedies I have heard proposed? I have listened to eloquent speeches, to, no doubt, earnest speeches, but no one to-day has made any suggestion that 442 would be a flea bite on our expenditure. There was one, perhaps, but it is a very old one, and it was made by one of the Siamese Twins who lead the Opposition. What was it? How are you going to get this cutting down. You are to appoint a Select Committee on the Estimates. It may be a useful thing to do that, bur those who advocate it go on in the next breath to say that a Select Committee on the Estimates must have nothing to do with policy, although two minutes afterwards they tell you that the estimates must entirely depend on policy. The whole thing is ridiculous. The truth of the matter is that there are some people who imagine that the only persons in the whole world who cannot see our financial position are the Government, and that the only people who do not want to cut down the expenditure are the Government also, although they are the persons who have to face the difficulty of trying to provide the necessary taxation when it comes to the Budget. I do not believe, bearing in mind the large field we have to cover, there has been any expensive waste or want of economy so far as it could be secured in the year after the war, and after five years' upsetting of the whole trade and business, the ideas and the ideals of every citizen in the whole Kingdom. I know every care ought to be taken. I believe every care is being taken; but the one thing I am certain of, and this is being left out of sight, is that we are able to thank God for what we can put on the other side of the ledger, and that is the victory we have obtained in the war. Let us now not be growling about the cost of it all, let us not be putting it on the wrong basis and inciting people on the wrong lines to believe that when they come to pay the debt they have got nothing for it, whereas as a matter of fact we have won the greatest victory in the world.
I am not one of the Siamese Twins. I am rather one of triplets and therefore am not affected by my right hon. Friend's statement. But I think I am entitled to say that he has done our party a grave injustice in assuming that we are responsible for this motion. He directed his remarks to showing that it was the Opposition that was always complaining on this question of economy. As a matter of fact, as he knows full well, the charge usually levelled against the Labour Members is not that they grumble 443 at expenditure but that they are always advocating increased expenditure.
I do not usually interrupt and I deprecate interruptions from either side; hon. Members have opportunities of dealing in their own way with their own ease. The right hon. Gentleman said that so far as he could judge, the people of the country were being deceived both by the press and at the bye-elections, with regard to the real cause of the increased cost of living. I believe there is nothing so dangerous to our country as the continual increase in the cost of living. Everyone who knows anything of working-class constituencies, or who knows the feelings of the working classes, must admit that it is not only an important subject but that it is a really dangerous subject, and I stated outside this House to my own people, the railway-men, that I do not believe the remedy for the increased cost of living is high wages. I frankly admit I have been driven because of the gradual and continuous increase in the cost of living to meet it by demands for higher wages, but I have never hesitated to say I believed it was creating and continuing a vicious system; because while the large Trade Unions may be sufficiently strong and powerful, and indeed are powerful enough to meet the position so far as their own members are concerned, we cannot blind ourselves to the fact that there are hundreds of thousands and millions of people with fixed incomes whom this burden of the increased cost of living affects worse than any other section of the community.
Seeing that reference has been made to by-elections and the suggestion has been made, with which I entirely agree, that it is useless to deceive the people and necessary to state the facts, I would respectfully submit that the working classes are entitled to look for accuracy, guidance and truth from the Government as much as from any section of the House. When we remember that just twelve months ago the Prime Minister himself, speaking on the question of the cost of living, not only predicted a drop in the cost of living but actually committed himself to an estimate, and said that in his judgment there would be a reduction equivalent to 4s. in the £ in March, 1919, you can quite understand that the working classes of this 444 country are at least entitled to say they believed the Prime Minister spoke with knowledge and that they believed he had grounds and justification for his estimate; but when they find twelve months afterwards that there is not only no reduction but a gradual and continuous increase in the cost of living, they are, entitled to say that they do not believe the utterances of those who are speaking for the Government. The result is, whether this House believes it or not, I am satisfied in my own mind that the real difficulty is that the whole circumstances of five years of war, our methods of expenditure, our methods of dealing with increased wages, and our methods of granting concessions have all created in the minds of the working classes the mistaken idea that paper itself is wealth. We have to face that fact.
I know as well as any Member of the House how all values have been entirely lost to-day. I remember the time when one announced a shilling advance to a large number of men and how it was accepted and appreciated. I also know how every time I announce a five-shilling advance to-day, I have to meet the charge that once more I have sold my members. It is a very serious thing from the standpoint of the country. Whatever party we belong to—in spite of all the charges of Bolshevism and all the rest in our country—no man and no woman can have lived through the past five years, seeing what our people accomplished, seeing the sacrifices they made, seeing the love of country that was demonstrated by them, who would not admit that, regardless of party, we are all anxious to see the old country pull through. I go beyond that I believe there is no greater mistake in dealing with this or any other subject than to hide the truth from the people. I have frequently stated and I repeat now that, so far as the industry is concerned, I entirely agree that production is the essence of this question, and I also fully recognise that you can get no more out of industry than is put into it. Vet I want this House to understand the kind of sentimental feeling that operates in the minds of the working classes. You say to them, "There is only one remedy for this difficulty; that is for you to work harder and produce more." That is the kind of argument you address to them. That is what you mean when you speak 445 of increased production. No amount of camouflage will alter it. You say to them, "There is only one solution. Work harder and produce more." They at once say to you, "Hut suppose I do work harder and I do individually produce more, are you aware that I maybe thrown out of work next week; and are you aware that there are many thousands of my fellow men in my own trade or in my own craft who are already out of work?" Can this House blame the sentiment of these people, when they have the knowledge that unemployment stares them in the face, if they do not believe, that the remedy we suggest to them is a good remedy? In other words, I believe that in this matter we have to establish goodwill and confidence among all sections and all classes of the people.
I said just now that we have to differentiate between the kinds of expenditure. For instance, I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) that no one would get up in this House and suggest that expenditure on education, housing and pensions should be reduced. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the House of Commons itself is entirely responsible. Here I join issue with him. It is quite true that the House of Commons will press him for further extensions which mean money. It is quite true that hon. Members will press him for further expenditure. But after all, the Cabinet itself is responsible. The Bills outlined in His Majesty's Speech this week are all Bills that will cost money. I refuse to believe that the House of Commons must be held responsible for the provisions the Government themselves make. No business undertaking could be conducted on those lines. I refuse to believe the suggestion that the House of Commons itself must be held responsible because they, in giving expression to their views and ideas on any measure proposed, have succeeded in increasing the expenditure. I submit first that the Cabinet themselves ought to weigh carefully what the expenditure means and then, when they come to this House with a Cabinet proposal, with all the knowledge at their disposal, they at least ought to be in as good a position to estimate what the cost will be as any Member of this House. I believe in that way much could be done. I desire to refer briefly to what was said by the Mover of the Amendment in re- 446 gard to the increase in the new Ministry of Transport. I do not quite understand what his references were. He said this new Ministry was set up with a view to controlling the railway system at enormous expense, and the muddle and waste and delay on the railways at this moment was such that not only did it not warrant the expense but showed a wicked waste of money. It is only fair that the House should know that whatever may be the complaints of the railway service of this country, from August, 1914, when the railways were taken over by the Government, the Government or the Civil Service have had no more to do with the management of them than any Member of this House. The directors, the general managers and the whole machinery which was in existence prior to the Government taking over the railways has continued to conduct the railways from that day to this.
Yes, but the orders of the Government have not been on the management of the railways. The only advantage so far as the Government is concerned is that they have guaranteed the dividends.
I repeat, even in the presence of the right hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury), who is himself a railway director, that both he and all other railway directors and general managers from 1914 to to-day have not been interfered with so far as the management of the railways is concerned. It is perfectly time that Government troops and Government munitions and all Government requirements had priority, but the circumstances of the war justified it. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) twitted the House that whilst the railway fares have increased, no one in the House supports them. While I have always demanded fair conditions for the railway men, I have always been opposed to the railways being subsidised. I have not limited my criticism to this House, but have said deliberately outside, although it has been unpopular, that I am opposed to any policy which means that the men must demand fair conditions and then run away from the facts which would be necessary to bring those conditions into operation. 447 The railway men are entitled to fair conditions, and the railway industry ought not to be different from any other industry which has the wherewithall in order to meet those conditions. I welcome this debate because I think you must differentiate between the kinds of expense. It is useless, after all that was promised during; the War, to pretend that the people of this country will be merely content with the same state of affairs, and indeed those papers which have been referred to, which are merely pleading economy here and economy there at the expense of the essential things of life, are themselves preaching a very dangerous policy. If there is waste in Government expenditure let us tackle it. If we can show the Government that they are spending money that they ought not to spend, this House ought to jealously safeguard its position and say so. But do not mix that with a general tirade of abuse that you must not spend on houses and you must not spend on the civil service. You will be compelled to spend because it is necessary and the people demand it. If we have to spend a £1 let us see to it that we get a fair return for our money, but if we can save a penny in this hour of the country's need let us all unite in doing our best to save it.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
As the House was reminded by the Lord President of the Council yesterday, an Amendment to the Address used to be a rather solemn proceeding, not supported by anybody who had not the wish to turn the Government out of office and the readiness to succeed the Government and take over their responsibilities if he was successful in the Lobby. An hon. Member who spoke a little time ago (Sir P. Pilditch), a supporter of the Government, said he had carefully scanned this Amendment and carefully listened to the Debate with the strongest desire to find some excuse which would justify him in voting a censure on it. He was good enough to confess that in spite of all his endeavours he found no such excuse in the terms of the Amendment, and none in the speeches which had been made in support of it.
I have a little difficulty in knowing how to treat it. For what am I arraigned? What are the charges of the indictment? I am not sure that I 448 need plead in person at all. My right hon. and learned Friend below the Gangway and the hon. Gentleman opposite have already stepped in in opposition to the Amendment, and I do not think they have left me a great deal to answer. Let me say one word in regard to an observation of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I have never sought to disclaim for myself or for the Government any part of our responsibility for the expenditure which is incurred, but we are the servants of the House and the ceratures of the House. We cannot be indifferent to the general sense of the House. If the general sense of the House is really and effectively in favour of economy, that will greatly strengthen our hands and assist our efforts. If there is no such general sense in the House, if in many quarters of the House there is a quite contrary desire, our task in securing the balance between expenditure and income and a. wise husbandry of the national resources is so much increased. But what I cannot admit is what the right hon. Gentleman seems to suggest is a proper thing—that gentlemen in opposition or out of office were entitled to press upon the Government any expense, and that it was the business of the Government alone to resist that expenditure if it was unreasonable. That is not a doctrine I can accept.
I gave the illustration of the Old Age Pensions Bill of last session. It is true the House proposed the increase in old age pensions, but it is equally true that the Cabinet as a whole saw the necessity of it and appointed a Commission, knowing that there must be a recommendation. Therefore it is useless to blame the House as having forced the Cabinet, when, as a matter of fact, it was the Cabinet's desire.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
In a case like that, and indeed in any case in which action has been taken, it is the joint responsibility of the Government and of the House. To say exactly from whom the initiative comes is often very difficult. There is a general desire throughout the country that something should be done to meet the case of the old-age pensioner, and the Government are asked what steps they will take. Will they proceed by way of a Committee that has been promised during the war? Then the House and the Government, each for itself, has 449 to decide what should be done. The decision may originate with the House or it may originate with the Government.
My right hon. Friend (Mr. Thomas) knows that the pressure on the Government from the House is, as the right hon. Member (Sir E. Carson) said, pretty constantly in the direction of increasing expenditure. Let me give an instance. I owe an apology to the House for not having been here at the opening of the Debate. The House had the right to expect that the Chancellor of Exchequer should be present on such an occasion, and I was very sorry to be absent; but the Prime Minister and other colleagues as well as myself had undertaken to receive a very important deputation, on a very important subject, namely, the representatives of many of the great municipal bodies of England and Scotland in regard to housing finance. The Prime Minister was forced to leave at an early stage of the deliberations to attend the International Conference, and I had to take the Chair. That is the only reason why I was not present when this Debate started. When this Debate is over I shall go to an International Conference on the financial affairs of Europe, where it is not likely—I am afraid it is unlikely—that any measures will be suggested which will lighten the burdens on the British Exchequer, or will relieve the strain on British credit. These gentlemen this morning who were anxious to forward the programme of housing came to us and asked, "Could not the Exchequer take the whole burden and responsibility of financing the housing programme throughout the country"? I told them I was overdue at the House of Commons to answer a vote of censure for not having raised the credit of the country and cut down its expenditure. Then I come to the House and take up the Order Paper with a desire to refresh my memory of the exact terms of the Motion, and the first thing I see is that at the commencement of public business one hon. Gentleman will present a Bill to provide pensions for women and children. Another hon. Gentleman will present a second Bill for the technical education, employment, and maintenance of the blind. A third hon. Gentleman will present a Bill to make provision for the prevention of unemployment, and to provide for the proper treatment of unemployed persons, and for other purposes 450 connected therewith. Another hon. Member presents a Bill for the creation of a new Ministry. A suitable introduction to a Debate on a Motion of censure on the Government for not already having reduced the expenditure still further! What would these Bills involve if the House sanctioned them? Fifty millions a year? I should think that would be quite a moderate estimate. Where is the reduction of Government staff to begin if Members of the House of Commons wish to create new Ministries as fast as we reduce any of the existing ones?
I do not complain of any discussions on the rate of our expenditure. I shall not complain, above all, if they lead, as my right hon. Friend opposite hopes, to a better understanding among all classes with regard to the position. What are the limits within which the Government can improve the situation, and what are the conditions necessary to enable the Government to do that? To impute to the misdeeds of this Government the present cost of food in this country is not merely foolish but it is to blind everybody to the only condition which can make an improvement in that situation, to lead them on a political chase and to distract them from what is a world-wide economic problem. The right hon. Gentleman opposite said that after the events of the great War, after the sacrifices that were called for, and all the feeling stirred up by that great struggle, it would be idle to expect the masses of our people to be content to go back to the conditions which existed before. Yes, but that is not a feeling confined to this country. It is not a change which has taken place only here. Owing to the War or the circumstances arising out of the War, the production of the world of a great many essential commodities is short, and simultaneously with that, owing to the new standard of living, the demands for those commodities are greater than ever before. You have a rice-eating population turning over to wheat, and a maize-eating population demanding wheat instead, while there are people who have been accustomed to mixed wheat and maize bread demanding white bread, which we have been accustomed to in this country. Take another illustration of these changes. The sugar production of the world is short. No sugar is coming from Russia, no sugar from Germany or Austria. The land is out of fettle, and 451 you cannot restore the pre-War crop without time, manure and labour. You have a short crop, and to add to the miseries of the world, the United States "go dry."
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
The United States go dry, and because they no longer consume alcocol they want an immensely increased amount of sugar to make good. Does anyone suppose that on that account they would forego their policy or alter it? At any rate the effect is distinctly unfortunate in one respect, and for my part I think that a moderate drinker like myself who gets his own sugar out of the alcohol that he drinks is a good citizen. These are world changes which affect the cost of living here and also in every other country, and to represent the increase in the cost of living as being due either to the omissions or commissions or wilful acts or wilful nglect by the Government of any possible and wise precaution is, as I say, not to throw light on the subject but to obscure it. Of course the action of the Government in its conduct of national affairs does have some effect upon credit and upon trade. During the war we had no choice. When your existence is at stake you must man, feed and supply your armies and keep yourself going how you can, and if you win through to victory you must then after victory practise the same kind of resolution in face of the difficulties which would be inevitable and the same patience which were shown during the war. During the war we roughly quadrupled our taxation—a prodigious thing to have done. We borrowed from people who had money to invest or who had saved in order to invest it all that we could. That taxation and those borrowings altogether produced a huge sum, but yet a sum insufficient for our necessities, and accordingly the various Governments were driven to borrow from the banks and these sources of credit without any real backing of wealth and production and there was a consequent inflation of the currency. That was a factor that was absolutely unavoidable but which of course did depreciate our money and lower our 452 credit and did pro tanto increase prices against us.
What are the conditions of returning to a better state of things. They are first of all increased production throughout the world. That does not mean that every man should work longer than he ever did before. I do not believe that that is necessary, but let him while he is at work produce the most that he can. On the other hand, let manufacturers consult with their employees and improve their methods of production so as to increase the amount produced and economise the cost. That is necessary the world over, if the world is to be supplied. If you have this large demand and there are not goods to meet it you can never get prices down. It is only when the supply equals the demand and exceeds it that you can expect the fall in prices to be really effective. Then when we turn to the Government the first thing that they have got to do is to stop fresh borrowing on revenue account. Very well, I believe that we have stopped it. I believe that the National Debt has reached its highest point and that henceforward the movement will be down and not up. The next step is to put into the hands of the true investor the large floating debt which is now taken from the money market or from banking credit—in other words, to fund the floating debt. There was no good in trying to do that until we had stopped borrowing. There is no good in trying, until we have gone one step further and begun to reduce it, so that the investor knows that the corner really has been turned. When he once realises that, you will see that our credit will improve very rapidly. He will respond very rapidly to any attempt to fund this vast mass of floating debt.
It is not in my opinion correct to say, as the mover has said, that the Government alone can control inflation. The bankers themselves have got to cooperate. It is not the Government who are the only persons responsible, and unless the bankers are prudent in their advances and in the credits which they allow, as long as I am as much at the mercy of Treasury Bills as I am now, we have not got complete control. They can force me into further borrowing. It only needs a wider co-operation, but I think that we shall get it. I think that in their own interests and in the interests of the stability of the credit of the country 453 they will, I do not say starve the trade of the country, I do not say abruptly refuse all credits, but they will, as has been indicated in speeches at the annual meetings, feel it necessary not indefinitely to extend the credits which they are asked to give. We are at the time of the year when our thoughts turn to the results of the financial year and the prospects of the next year. The new Budget is too near for prophecy, and yet it is still too far off for a final and definite statement. All I say at the present stage is that where the House has voted a new expenditure that new expenditure has to be met, but that I expect the year to end rather more favourably than I did when I presented the revised Budget estimates in the autumn. That is to say, I expected then that the debt would have increased more in the course of the year than I thought it would when I introduced my Budget statement, but less than I thought it would when I produced my amended statement. Revenue is coming in well. Our prospects are good, and if we stood alone with our resources to meet our obligations I should not have a moment's doubt about the future. "We are strong enough to do it and to do it without undue strain, and we shall do it. Of course, our position is affected by the reaction of the situation in Europe. It was under discussion yesterday. All I say for the moment is what I have said often before: It is commonplace and yet it is the essence of the matter. There is every reason for our being careful; there is absolutely no reason for our getting into a panic. If we are careful our shoulders are broad enough and our resources are sufficient to enable us to face all our obligations, to do those things which we have to do, to re-establish our equilibrium, pay our way, provide a sinking fund and begin to make substantial reduction in our outstanding liabilities.
I do not know whether I ought to take up the time of the House in regard to the particular charge that our expenditure has been unduly extravagant since we last discussed the matter. As has been pointed out, we did not get much assistance from the critics as to what we spend wastefully and uneconomically. My right hon. Friend who moved the Amendment said we ought to have made peace with Turkey. Yesterday would have been the opportunity to make that particular 454 criticism. I thought that my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council and the Leader of the House had settled that criticism, so far as Debate can settle it. My hon. Friend criticised our Russian policy. Again, that was what was challenged yesterday. Our policy may be wrong but we are prepared to justify it, and if my hon. Friend thinks it was within our power to make peace with Turkey and that we ought to have done it as a measure of economic reform, or that we ought not to have pursued the policy we did pursue, we can meet him at any time on a challenge of that kind. Really that is a matter of high policy, not of administration, suitable to such an Amendment as he has moved. Then an hon. Member opposite suggested that there were officials and messengers unnecessarily employed in directing Government cargoes to particular ports and that this work ought to be done by the Admiralty. My hon. Friend really is mistaken. The whole expenditure involved is very small. The work is done in connection with the Ministry of Shipping and other Govern eminent Departments concerned, and the system works admirably.
My hon. Friend made a more serious contribution to the debate. He suggested that we should adopt a recommendation of the Committee on Public Expenditure to limit the bread subsidy to that portion of the flour which goes into the making of bread. That is a serious suggestion and we have been looking into it very closely. I venture to say that I do not think that the Committee on National Expendiure knew what was involved in their proposal. They made a rapid calculation, or a calculation was supplied to them, of the amount of flour used in these other purposes. Then they say, if that amount of flour did not receive the subsidy you might save £15,000,000 a year. That is not so. Their proposal would involve the rationing of bread and flour throughout the country. You cannot work it otherwise. It would mean the creation, or the re-creation, of an immense machinery for the purpose of rationing an article of prime necessity which even in the height of war we did not ration. If all the machinery were created, we are advised that it would still be impossible to prevent a great leakage, and having created this I great machinery, with all its social 455 consequences and all its expenditure, probably the maximum which you could save out of the £15,000,000 or £12,000,000, would be £5,000,000 a year. I do not want to pre-judge the future of the bread subsidy. It was made a ground of complaint against us to-day, that we had expressed the hope a year ago that prices were going to fall. They did fall for a time but rose again. It is very difficult to forecast the course of world prices under present circumstances. But I can assure the House that the cost to the country of the bread subsidy and the objection to the cost being borne in that way are exercising the very serious attention not merely of the Chancellor of the Exchequer but of the Government as a whole. It is not by apportioning the flour which goes into pastry or pudding and excluding that from the subsidy, that we shall really deal with the problem.
As regards expenditure generally, reduction generally, let me give the House a few figures. At the date of the Armistice, the military forces, Army, Navy and Air, numbered 4,418,129 officers and men. By the 4th February last 4,059,635 of those had been demobilised or discharged.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
The white troops left on that date were 502,504. That is in all the forces. There is no new construction of ships going on in the Navy, except the completion of certain ships which had gone so far at the time of the Armistice that it was uneconomical not to finish them The winding-up work of the Ministry of Munitions is going on steadily. But the Ministry of Munitions has a two-fold task—to wind up war contracts with the least cost that is possible, and to realise to the best advantage for the Exchequer immense supplies which the cessation of the war threw on our hands. As to civil expenditure, I invited the House last autumn to consider what was the possible field for retrenchment or for criticism I now invite hon. Members to do the same. Look at our Budget. Pensions are £124,000,000. Is there a single Member of the House who would cut the amount down? Not one. There is a great number of Members who would urge the Government to increase it. One hon. Member spoke in that sense to-day He made the proposal that we should 456 revise the pensions of people who had retired before the present war on the basis of post-war value and costs. Those people who were pensioned before the war have suffered profoundly when their means were small. But they have suffered in common with immense numbers of their countrymen; with all who were living on fixed incomes: and who had not succeeded in increasing their earnings. Why should the State, whose bargain with them was complete, and which would inner have thought of reducing the pension against them if the cost of living had fallen now be called on to reopen the bargain and make good in their case and in their case only, a misfortune not caused by their public service, and which is shaved by enormous masses of their countrymen. That request, I do not knew what you would call it, would run inevitably through the whole Government service, it would run through the railway service, through the municipal service, and would run into figures which I have no means of estimating. I have taken the trouble to see what would be the immediate result on our own Estimates. It would add to our liabilities a capital sum of certainly not less than £50,000,000. It would add an immediate annual sum decreasing as the pensioners died off, but if you calculate the capital value of that sum it would certainly not be less as an immediate charge than what I have stated, and that is including nothing for the railways or any charges on the public through the local authorities. We really cannot afford these things; we must cry a halt.
You have land settlement and you have housing, and the cry is all for more, and you have Government establishments corresponding to the services you require. I pointed out to the House in the autumn that if you swept away every new Government department, which nobody is prepared to do, and if you brought back all the old Government departments to prewar condition, which nobody pretends can be done, the maximum saving you would make in establishment charges would be £22,000,000. An hon. Member mentions the bread subsidy. The establishment charges would not be reduced thereby. We have reduced the staffs from 430,000 at the date of the Armistice to 400,000 by October, and there has been a further reduction of 16,000 since then. We are 457 carrying out a detailed investigation through the. responsible heads of the departments of the work of their departments, to see whether further economies can be made in the staffs, either by direct reduction of staffs as being redundant or by a reduction of service as being less necessary; or less so than in an easier time. Then; is not the slightest chance of returning to pre-war figures. You cannot do all the new work that is proposed and yet refuse the staff which is required. Of the whole staff, nearly half is accounted for by the Post Office, and I have not yet heard anybody suggesting to my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General that they would welcome a reduction in the services of the Post Office or would be content until he has improved in every respect the postal facilities offered to the public. Yes, but you must keep the two things in mind. It is no good saying, "Do without any staff, but give us another post a day; cut down your number of employés in the Pension Office, but at your peril, Mr. Minister, do not allow a single pension to be in arrears or paid at a wrong date." You cannot refuse to the Government the staff which is adequate for the services you require it to perform, and to hold out a vague and general expectation that any violent reduction is possible here or that any sensible effect is going to be made on such budgets as we have in this year, is really to mislead the public, and anybody who takes the" trouble to go into the facts would not do it, because he could not honestly do it having gone into them.
I do not want to go through all this. I am one of those who have never been among the pessimists, and have never been among the extreme optimists. I have never pretended that we were inevitably going to ruin. I have called attention to the dangers, but I have pointed out at the same time that if we took warnings and were wise we could encounter them and encounter them successfully. As time goes on, I am more than ever assured of it. And bear in mind that in these matters a little confidence goes a very long way. The difficult steps are the first ones. When you have once shown that the reduction of your debt has begun, then I think, as far as we are concerned, we shall have done the most that we can do towards the restoration of the 458 high position of British credit, and we shall have made no inconsiderable contribution to the restoration of more stable conditions throughout the world. But it is not by this country's effort that either the increased production which is required can be secured or that the rise in prices can be checked or the exchange stabilised. The exchange is not the cause of these results which we see; it is the effect of them. It is the register showing how the machine is working. Our own exchange would be infinitely netter if it were our own exchange and our own exchange only. The London and New York Exchange is, as was well said the other day, not an Anglo-American Exchange, but a European Exchange. Our task would be lightened or rendered more difficult— although its accomplishment would not be prevented—according to the wisdom with which other peoples, as well as our own, conduct their affairs in these difficult days. For myself, I say I do not want anyone to think the path is easy or smooth or agreeable, but I say that we arc; stronger. We have the skill, knowledge, enterprise, and resources to face all our liabilities, as we shall face them, and our recovery, in my opinion, will be much quicker than most people are now inclined to think.
§ Mr. SEDDON
I would not have taken part in the debate but for one or two references made by the mover of this Amendment. The debate has convinced me, listening to some of the critics, that there are a lot of people who professed that they could give guidance to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but when they were faced with the facts, it turned out that their contribution was very, very feeble indeed. I want more particularly to take strong exception to my hon. Friend's comments so far as the money that is spent in Russia is concerned. We are apt to forget—we have very short memories—of what Russia did in the great struggle that saved us from German domination. When we do take the trouble to go over the military deeds of that great country before she fell upon her evil days, I think we shall at least appreciate that it helped to save civilisation and ourselves. To go back to August, 1914, Paris in all probability would have fallen but for the thrust of the Russians. The same can be said about the retreat from Mons. On great crucial occasions the Russian forces helped to save our troops and to save 459 the Allies. The moral I want to point is this. We know to-day that Russia lies tortured and bleeding, but you might as well say that the pyramid upon its apex is a substantial, enduring building as to say the present system of government in Russia is one of continuity. It cannot last. Whatever may be the aftermath of Bolshevism, the present form of government will not be tolerated. Forced labour will find the workers of Russia themselves against that form of government. I want to give one or two old-fashioned, homely truths. It is just as well to remember there are some laws that are immutable and indestructible. All the people who were helping us in early days were not annihiliated. They may some day come back to take part in the rebuilding of that great country, and the exception I take to my hon. Friend is—to paraphrase the well-known words—I would rather have attempted and failed, than not attempted at all, so far as helping Russia is concerned.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
The hon. Member, I am sure, does not wish to misrepresent me, but he will remember what I said. It was not giving the help which I discouraged, but the vacillation.
§ Mr. SEDDON
I accept the hon. Gentleman's correction, but the impression which he left upon my mind was that having started in Russia we should have gone on helping Russia—that we should either have gone or not done it at all. If I am wrong, I accept the correction, but I do want to point out that in the recovery of Russia we will need the friendship of those who will be the real builders of that country, and I am convinced of this, that what we have done, even although we have failed to continue to the end, will be an asset to us when the sane forces of that country come into their own, and begin to rebuild her shattered fortunes. I would join with my hon. Friend in some little criticism of the Government in reference to the slowness with which we have, proceeded with greater agricultural production in this country. After all, however, as has been well said, you cannot blame the Government for some of the things over which the Government has no control. The agricultural community of this country is not the easiest team to drive. 460 The farmer is slow, conservative, and suspicious—very suspicious. Bismarck, when he started out to organise the agriculture of Prussia, discovered that the least amenable to his gospel of blood and iron, and of efficiency, were the agricultural workers of that docile country. When, therefore, criticism is being levied against the Government for not succeeding in bringing about greater production of food at least some of the blame should be attached to the farming community. The farmer does not believe in collectiveism, but in individualism to its extremest point. You have to impress upon the agriculturalist, the producer of our food, whether he be labourer, farmer, or landlord that in this, our great national need, if the country and the Government take any part in increased production and give them security, then they will have to take some instructions from the country and not be content with old-fashioned methods.
I smiled at the lack of knowledge of the hon. Member opposite in relation to the ordinary working-class family. I do not know from what part of the country he hails, but in the North most of the housewives bake their own bread. I am sorry to think that that good old fashion seems to be dying out amongst some modern housewives. I believe the South Wales housewives also bake their own bread. There was a suggestion of saving I think the Chancellor said £5,000,000, but by the process suggested you would need to increase your officials and policemen, and need one of the latter for every working man's house. The housewife, say, buys her flour on the Saturday, and you propose to say to her: "You can only use so many lbs. for bread, and you must not make any pastry or cakes." I would not like to be the policeman who went to an ordinary housewife and told her she could not use the flour as she thought fit for her household needs. I am convinced of the correctness of what was said by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Belfast that the way is not to criticise the Government, and to nag at them, but to show them the better way. I frankly confess that I endorse what was said by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that if the result of this debate is merely contributions by speech upon economy then it has been a barren debate indeed. I am glad of what was said to counter 461 the proposals that were made by the mover and the seconder of the Amendment. It has been said that we bear a collective responsibility. I think the hon. Member who said that would know if he had been taking part in bye-elections that this sniping and pin pricking of the Government, so ably fortified and supported by a section of the press, often from ulterior motives or injured vanity, instead of doing anything to build up our shattered fortunes, is providing more weapons for the men who wish to destroy the country rather than to save it. No valuable suggestions have been made during this debate for economy. I think it has been proved that every Member of Parliament is equally responsible to the Government for the increasing expenditure and instead of decrying the Government our proper course is to state frankly that we were responsible, and give reasons for the action we have taken.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Perhaps the Chancellor of the Exchequer will excuse me if I say that I think the last part of his speech was very much superior to the first part. It was devoted to the remarks made by the Member for one of the divisions of Birmingham (Sir. A. Steel-Maitland), and he said that he did not take my hon. Friend's speech seriously. I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer is somewhat ungrateful, because only this morning a deputation was asking something involving a large increase in expenditure, and he was able to tell that deputation that in consequence of the Amendment now before the House it was difficult to accede to the request of the deputation to spend a large sum of money. L think my hon. Friend ought to be grateful to the Member for Birmingham for having brought forward this Amendment, and whether it is serious or not, it is not for me to say. I was detained in another place and did not hear the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham but I understand from him that he did not allude so much to foreign questions, and all he said was, that if £100,000,000 or any other sum was going to be spent in alien nations it should be spent in such a way as to achieve good results.
Sir A. STEEL MAITLAND
The Chancellor of the Exchequer was detained on other business and he did not hear what I said. I disclaimed any wish to deal with foreign affairs, because I had listen- 462 ed yesterday to the speech of the Lord President of the Council, but I said that if we were going on spending money at the rate of so many hundred thousands of pounds per day we ought to provide for it by an extra taxation, and that was my point of view.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
My right hon. Friend went on to say that pressure in this House is always in the direction of increased expenditure. Expenditure has increased very much lately when the means of providing it have been reduced I do not draw the same conclusion on this point as my right hon. Friend. He is a member of the Coalition Government and he has to give us a lead in these matters. The Government know the state of the finances of the country and the expenditure, and it is for them to deal with this question. They should say to hon. Members: "Do you want us to spend a certain amount of money which we think we cannot find without inflicting a very serious blow on the finances of the country?" They should give us it lead in this matter, because they have the Whips at the door, and if the House of Commons insists upon increased expenditure at this moment then the right hon. Gentleman should say: "You must get another Chancellor of the Exchequer and another Government." That would be far more effective than appointing a committee and taking the direction of that committee. Having studied the history of this subject, I think I am correct in saying that all the old Governments, instead of shelving their responsibility upon the House of Commons or upon committees, took the responsibility upon themselves.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
The criticism which I ventured to make has been made by every Chancellor of the Exchequer who has hold this office since I first came into the House.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
We have now got a superior Chancellor of the Exchequer, and we look to him to show us the proper way in which the finances of the country should be managed. I think I am right in saying that since the middle of April when the Budget was introduced our expenditure has increased by something like £100,000,000 or £200,000,000. That is a very large sum, and I am not at all sure how it is going to be met. I do not want to anticipate the Budget which is to be introduced in a few weeks' time, 463 but it must be remembered that we have created a bad precedent when the Chancellor of the Exchequer comes down to the House at the proper time and says that our expenditure is going to be £500,000,000, or whatever the sum may be, and then, owing to pressure, is obliged to add to that expenditure sums which would have defrayed the expenditure of Mr. Gladstone and the statesmen of his day. I now come to the last part of the speech of my right hon. Friend, which, as I have said, was very superior to the first part. I only hope that my right hon. Friend will carry out, regardless of consequences, the principles which he has laid down. I understand that we are to have no more borrowing unless it is for the purpose of paying off our floating debt. My right hon. Friend is quite right there. It is absolutely essential that we should have no more borrowing except for the purpose of paying off the floating debt. It is also essential that the floating debt should be reduced in amount, I do not say paid off at once or at all, because it is a convenience to the city to have a certain amount of Treasury Bills in existence. It must, however, be reduced to a manageable amount. If we were to have a panic in the city, with £1,100,000,000 Treasury Bills renewable every three or six months, God knows what we might have to pay for the renewal of those Bills. Therefore, I agree that it is absolutely essential sooner or later. Personally, I think the time was missed about a year ago. There must be an effort to reduce the floating debt.
I did not quite understand what my right hon. Friend meant by his allusion to bankers. Does he mean that bankers should not advance too large a credit to their customers'? I was a banker for some years, and the criticism in those days was that the bankers did not advance enough. I remember some of the newspapers, and I think some hon. Members, advocating something in the nature of a State bank which would advance more credit and more money to people in trade who were desirous of increasing production, etc. I do not therefore quite know what my right hon. Friend meant when he said that bankers must be careful in the way of advancing money. I think myself that they always 464 are. I did not quite understand what my right hon. Friend meant when he said there should be no more borrowing on revenue account. There ought to be no more on capital account. It is as bad at the present moment to borrow money on the one account as on the other. I have only one or two things more to say. My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) alluded to some speech made earlier in the day with regard to the control of the railways. He said that the entire control has been in the hands of the directors and general managers. But this is true to only a certain extent, for ever since the Board of Trade has had control over the directors they have been compelled to submit to expenditure against their own definitely expressed opinions, opinions which events have proved to be well founded for the expenditure has led to greater outlay on the railways, and has put an additional burden on the taxpayers, while it has impaired the efficiency of the service. I was not fortunate enough to hear the whole of the speech of my right hon Friend the Member for Belfast (Sir E. Carson) but I think he said, "Do not let us have all this talk about cost now we have one victory." I do not want to go back to what has happened in the past. I am more concerned about the future. But I feel quite certain that unless we do cut our coat according to our cloth we shall have to meet a very serious situation from which we may not recover. If we take the bull by the horns I think we will recover. It is absolutely essential we should cut down expenditure however good the object of it may be, even though it be expenditure on pensions or housing, and if we do that, if we reduce expenditure we shall come round. But if we do not do that we shall run the inevitable course which attaches to the spendthrift in private life.
My right hon. Friend rather cast doubt on the efficacy of the Estimates Committee. But one was set up in 1911 and it existed until 1914. I had the honour of being Chairman of it during the whole time. The Committer in my opinion did very good work. It is quite true it is open to the criticism of my right hon. and learned Friend that it cannot interfere with policy. But it has its good effect. It can probe into matters, it can ask officials what they are doing and how 465 much they have spent, and the officials know that they will be obliged to appear before the Committee and answer for what they have done. That has a very salutary effect upon them. The utility of the Committee is not in its direct effect but in its indirect action. I understood that the Government are going to set up the Committee again. I hope that they will. When Mr. Herbert Samuel was Chairman of the Select Committee on national Expenditure in two separate years he recommended that the Estimates Committee should be re-established, and with an officer who would "put up the game," and use his own discretion. Last year the Select Committee over which I presided unanimously came to the same decision. Though I do not for a moment anticipate any enormous results from it, yet the appointment of a Committee of that sort is good and is bound to have some effect. I am glad that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury is here, because I believe he has an economical mind. I am sorry he has not been able to hear my few remarks.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Baldwin)
I have heard them all.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I am anxious to say one or two words in support of the cause of economy. The House of Commons is a little hardly treated by the Government when complaint is made of an Amendment of this kind. It is quite true that the House of Commons itself is largely responsible for extravagance in expenditure. It is quite true that pressure, originating, perhaps, in the constituencies, is put on the Government to spend more money in this or that direction. On that point there are two observations to be made. It does not relieve the Government of their responsibility, because the Government know the facts of the financial position of the country in a way which is quite impossible for the electorate outside the House, and practically outside the competence except of a very few Members of this House. Therefore, the responsibility is not equal between the Government and the House. The Government know the facts, whereas 466 the House, generally speaking, does not. We know that if the blind lead the blind they fall into the ditch, but what is to be said if one man with eyesight, leading the blind, insists on shutting his eyes and, when they come to the miry abyss, complains that the blind man insists on going in that direction? That is not an unfair comparison between the House of Commons and the Government. Being sinners, how can we do better than call for repentance, as we do in this Amendment? If amendments of this kind were never moved, if there were never any economic discussions, on the one hand the Government would feel no pressure towards economy, and on the other hand the Government would not be furnished with the weapon which such discussions give them for restraining extravagant expenditure. Therefore, the Government ought themselves to recognise that they owe a debt of gratitude to my hon. Friend (Sir A. Steel-Maitland) for bringing the matter before the House in a speech of great ability, with much temperance and moderation of statement.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer made a very interesting speech and reviewed the question very instructively. The only criticism which I would make upon his statement of the economic situation is that he did not throw quite enough emphasis on the devaluation of money. He talked of other aspects of the matter, but did not previously say that the Government borrowed money where there was no money and then made any deficiency up by printing a great number of currency notes. That, I believe, is the brutal truth. We shall do no good at all unless the Government propose, as their ultimate object, the restriction of currency. You will not get prices down except by restricting currency. The Prime Minister the other day said, with great truth, that the devaluation of money was the main cause of high prices. So it is. The Prime Minister's economic mind is bewildering. Often it seems that he were drifting mist blown about by electioneering winds, but now and again there is just a sparkle of truth that comes through and that was one of the occasions. We had that unusual glimpse of the real facts of economic truth which the Prime Minister has only vouchsafed from time to time. Therefore, unless the Government propose that ultimately we 467 shall make no progress, and of course, as the Government knows perfectly well, restriction of the currency is a task which involves some very disagreeable consequences, consequences which I am afraid are disagreeable to some people who are very often influential, and I am a little suspicious that the Government allows its economic virtue to be tampered with on that subject and are not, really addressing themselves with their whole heart to the very difficult problem of restricting the currency as soon as it can be restricted. But unquestionably the first step towards restoring the currency is national economy.
My right hon. Friend of course pointed to the case of pensions as a case of national expenditure which could not be avoided. That, of course, is one of many items of expenditure which inflation tends to increase. I was glad to hear him make a very sympathetic and very courageous reply to the desire for a further increase of pensions, but of course that claim upon him should never be made unless prices had risen as a consequence of that inflation. The national finances are consequently placed in the difficulty that extravagance makes inflation, inflation raises prices, prices involve a heavy burden on persons with fixed incomes, some of whom depend upon the Government, and who then come round to the Government again to spend more money, and I am very glad my right hon. Friend tries to stop that circle of cause and effect so as to produce a cure in the end which will help even these unhappy pensioners themselves with whom everyone must feel the warmest sympathy. My right hon. Friend said quite truly there is no cause for panic so far as the financial condition of this country is concerned. It is perfectly true, and he was only doing his duty by insisting upon it. But though there is no cause for panic he would be the first to agree that the financial situation is nothing but unsatisfactory. We want a great reduction of taxation somewhere and we shall never get it unless we begin to economise very drastically indeed. I am told that the Standing Order I have suggested, which should give some check on the extravagance which arises out of 468 legislation, is impossible. I do not know why the right hon. Gentleman thinks that impossible. Perhaps on some other occasion he will explain it. I am sure it would be a very desirable thing to erect some permanent barrier of House of Commons procedure against legislative extravagance. There is, of course, a permanent barrier against administrative extravagance, which is very valuable indeed, to the effect that no money can be spent in administration except on the instruction of a Minister of the Crown, but we want a corresponding barrier for legislative expenditure, and I hope my right hon. Friend will try whether it is not possible to do something of the kind.
There is no occasion for panic here but there is occasion for panic in the financial condition of the world, or at any rate there is occasion for the warmest possible anxiety. We all listened to the very despondent cries made both by critics of the Government and by the Government themselves last night. If we are then to think sympathetically of the prodigious suffering and the economic collapse which has overtaken many nations formerly prosperous in the world we must lay to heart the lesson that extravagance here in England, even reasonable expenditure or reasonable objects, is selfish now. We must sec that programmes for establishing what was called in the rhetoric of last year, which i hope is now out of fashion. "a new and brighter England," and all the rest of it. That sort of thing is really a wickedness in face of the condition of Europe at the present time. Our business now is to economise first of all. There are some expenses which cannot be avoided; but we ought to see whether there is not in the Civil Service some expenditure which is not wasteful, but which can be postponed or restricted until the time when the economic condition of the world is better than it is now.
My right hon. Friend said, and it gave me quite a pleasant feeling to hear him, that an Amendment to the address is a vote of censure on the Government. I love these old phrases; they make one feel young again. They are very graceful pageantry, like that of the peers dressing in red robes at the opening of Parliament. We all know, of course, that an Amend- 469 ment to the Address, when the Government have a majority of 400 is not likely to disturb their tenure of office. They will be supported by many loyal supporters in this House and by the still larger and more impartial body of opinion that will come in from other parts of the House, who will give them that support which is given to them more easily by those who have heard the Debate. You cannot seriously regard a technical debate on this matter as a vote of censure. My purpose in supporting it is to put pressure on the Government in the cause of economy; and I am sure the Chancellor of the Exchequer must be glad when people do press the Government for economy. I want to sec a change in the centre of gravity of administration, both departmentally and in policy. In war time war is everything and the Treasury is nothing. The Secretary of State for War and the First Lord of the Admiralty, with those who surround them, are the principal Ministers of the Crown; all they ask for is given gladly and readily. The Chancellor of the Exchequer who stood in the way of war expenditure while war was going on would rightly be regarded as a most dangerous enemy of his country. The great warlike spending departments are then, quite properly, regarded as the principal departments. Now it ought to be just the other way. The Treasury ought to be regarded as the principal department and it ought to be regarded as quite improper for any department to press expenditure against the opinion of the Treasury. The first and last word ought to be with the Treasury, just as the first and last word are with the Admiralty and the War Office in time of war. I wonder whether that is
§ so now. I wonder whether you cannot cut down naval and military expenditure a good deal lower than you have done. Is there really any reason why we should have a navy or army bigger than when, say, the Chancellor of the Exchequer first got into Parliament? These are questions I should like to press. Most of all I should like to see the Treasury sending what one might call secretaries into every Department who shall be responsible to the Treasury and not dismissable by the Department—an alien in a foreign land, so to speak, acting under the sanction of the Department and the Treasury. Economy is as much the dominant interest of the country now as efficiency in war was in time of war. We ought to have the same spirit of ascendency now in matters of national economy as we had in favour of warlike efficiency.
§ Let us hope that it may be so. But certainly we shall not gain anything by bandying about between the Government and the House of Commons' responsibility for extravagance. If the Government care for economy as they certainly used to care for efficiency in the War, we should not hear the suggestion that they were the servants or the creatures of the House. They would give directions to the House as they gave them before, knowing that the supreme need of the public interest will always carry with them the support of the House, and knowing that where they led every patriot would follow.
§ Question put, "That those words be, there added."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 44: Noes, 188.471
|Division No. 3.]||AYES.||[4.55 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Hayward, Major Evan||Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross)|
|Ashley, Colonel Wilfrid W.||Hoare, Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. J. G.||Myers, Thomas|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Hogge, James Myles||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.|
|Barrand, A. R.||Holmes, J. Stanley||Ormsby-Gore, Captain Hon. W.|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Johnstone, Joseph||Robertson, John|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Rose, Frank H.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Kelly, Edward J. (Donegal, East)||Spoor, B. C.|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon. Torquay)||Kolley, Major Fred (Rotherham)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Curzon, Commander Viscount||Kenyon, Barnet||Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Lawson, John J.||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Glanville, Harold James||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Morgan, Major D. Watts||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Major|
|Grundy, T. W.||Mosley, Oswald||Barnes and Mr. Raffan.|
|Hartshorn, Vernon||Murray, Lt.-Col. Hon. A. (Aberdeen)|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S||Gilbert, James Daniel||Palmer, Major Godfrey Mark|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. C.||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John||Palmer, Brigadier-General G. L.|
|Allen, Lieut.-Colonel William James||Glyn Major Ralph||Parker, James|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Goff, Sir R. Park||Parkinson, Albert L. (Blackpool)|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel Martin||Grant, James A.||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry|
|Astor, Viscountess||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Pearce, Sir William|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Gregory, Holman||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Greig, Colonel James William||Peel, Col. Hn. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Perring, William George|
|Barnett, Major R. W.||Hambro, Captain Angus Valdemar||Philipps, Sir Owen C. (Chester, City)|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Hamilton, Major C. G. C.||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Barrie, Charles Coupar||Hanna, George Boyle||Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles|
|Beck, Sir C. (Essex, Saffron Walden)||Harris, Sir Henry Percy||Pollock, Sir Ernest M.|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston)||Pratt, John William|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Preston, W. R.|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Prescott, Major W. H.|
|Benn, Com. Ian H. (Greenwich)||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Hills, Major John Waller||Pulley, Charles Thornton|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Hinds, John||Purchase, H. G.|
|Bowles, Colonel H. F.||Hood, Joseph||Raeburn, Sir William H.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Hunter, General Sir A (Lancaster)||Rankin, Captain James S.|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Hurd, Percy A.||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel N.|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Reid, D. D.|
|Brown, T. W. (Down, North)||Jameson, J. Gordon||Remer, J. R.|
|Bruton, Sir James||Jellett, William Morqan||Renwick, George|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Jesson, C.||Richardson, Sir Albion (Camberwell)|
|Burdon, Colonel Rowland||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)||Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)|
|Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel A. H.||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Burn, T. H. (Belfast, St. Anne's)||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||James, Hon. Cuthbert||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Carr, W. Theodore||Kerr-Smiley, Major Peter Kerr||Seddon, J. A.|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)|
|Casey, T. W.||Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow, C.)||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm. W.)||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Simm, M. T.|
|Cheyne, Sir William Watson||Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd)||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Chilcot, Lieut.-Com. Harry W.||Lindsay, William Arthur||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. G. F.|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward F.||Lloyd-Greame, Major P.||Stevens, Marshall|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tingd'n)||Stewart, Gershom|
|Colvin, Brig-General Richard Beale||Lonsdale, James Rolston||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Lorden, John William||Talbot, G. A. (Hemel Hempstead)|
|Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)||Lort-Williams, J.||Taylor, J. (Dumbarton)|
|Cory, Sir C. J. (Cornwall, St. Ives)||Loseby, Captain C. E.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Craig, Colonel Sir J. (Down, Mid.)||Lowther, Lt.-Col. Claude (Lancaster)||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Lynn, R. J.||Waddington, R.|
|Dawes, James Arthur||Lyon, Laurance||Waring, Major Walter|
|Dean, Lieut.-Commander P. T.||Mackinder, Sir H. J. (Camlachie)||Whitla, Sir William|
|Denison-Pender, John C.||McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)||Wigan, Brig.-Gen. John Tyson|
|Denniss, Edmund R. B. (Oldham)||M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Dockrell, Sir Maurice||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir R. (Banbury)|
|Donald, Thompson||M'Neill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Williamson, Rt. Hon. Sir Archibald|
|Duncannon, Viscount||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Edge, Captain William||Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir M. (Bethnal Gn.)|
|Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||Mitchell, William Lane||Wood, Sir J. (Stalybridge & Hyde)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Moles, Thomas||Woolcock, William James U.|
|Elliott, Lt.-Col. Sir G. (Islington, W.)||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred M.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M.||Morris, Richard||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.||Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)|
|FitzRoy, Captain Hon. E. A.||Mount, William Arthur||Young, W. (Perth & Kinross, Perth)|
|Forrest, Waiter||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Younger, Sir George|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Murray, Major William (Dumfries)|
|Gardner, Ernest||Neal, Arthur||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Capt.|
|Geddes, Rt. Hon. Sir E. (Camb'dge)||Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)||Guest and Sir R. Sanders.|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry.|
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ It being Five of the Clock, Mr.. SPEAKER proceeded to interrupt the business,472
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 200; Noes, 23.473
|Division No. 4.]||AYES.||[5.5 p.m.|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S.||Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel Martin||Baird, John Lawrence|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. C.||Ashley, Colonel Wilfrid W.||Baldwin, Stanley|
|Allen, Lieut.-Colonel William James||Astor, Viscountess||Balfour, George (Hampstead)|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Ormsby-Gore, Captain Hon. W.|
|Barnett, Major R. W.||Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.||Palmer, Brigadier-General G. L.|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Parker, James|
|Barrand, A. R.||Hambro, Captain Angus Valdemar||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry|
|Barrie, Charles Coupar||Hamilton, Major C. G. C.||Pearce, Sir William|
|Beck, Sir C. (Essex, Saffron Walden)||Hanna, George Boyle||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Harris, Sir Henry Percy||Peel, Col. Hn. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)|
|Betlairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston)||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Perring, William George|
|Benn, Com. Ian H. (Greenwich)||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Philipps, Sir Owen C. (Chester, City)|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Hills, Major John Waller||Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hinds, John||Pollock, Sir Ernest M.|
|Bowles, Colonel H. F.||Hoare, Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. J. G.||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Hood, Joseph||Pratt, John William|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Hopkins, John W. W.||Preston, W. R.|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)||Prescott, Major W. H|
|Brown, T. W. (Down, North)||Hurd, Percy A.||Pulley, Charles Thornton|
|Bruton, Sir James||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Purchase, H. G.|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Jameson, J. Gordon||Raeburn, Sir William H.|
|Burdon, Colonel Rowland||Jellett, William Morgan||Rankin, Captain James S.|
|Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel A. H.||Jesson, C.||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel N.|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Jodrell, Neville Paul||Reid, D. D.|
|Burn, T. H. (Belfast, St. Anne's)||Johnstone, Joseph||Renwick, George|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)||Richardson, Sir Albion (Camberwell)|
|Carr, W. Theodore||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Birm., Aston)||James, Hon. Cuthbert||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Kelley, Major Fred (Rotherham)||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D|
|Cheyne, Sir William Watson||Kerr-Smiley, Major Peter Kerr||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Chilcot, Lieut.-Com. Harry W.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Seddon, J. A.|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward F.||Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow, C.)||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd)||Simm, M. T.|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Lindsay, William Arthur||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)||Lloyd-Greame, Major P.||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. G. F.|
|Cory, Sir C. J. (Cornwall, St. Ives)||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Stevens, Marshall|
|Craig, Colonel Sir J. (Down, Mid.)||Lonsdale, James Rolston||Stewart, Gershom|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Lorden, John William||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)||Lort-Williams, J.||Talbot, G. A. (Hemel Hempstead)|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Loseby, Captain C. E.||Taylor, J.|
|Dawes, James Arthur||Lewther, Lt.-Col. Claude (Lancaster)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Dean, Lieut-Commander P. T.||Lynn, R. J.||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Denison-Pender, John C||Lyon, Laurance||Waddington, R.|
|Denniss, Edmund R. B. (Oldham)||Mackinder, Sir H. J. (Camlachie)||Wallace, J.|
|Dockrell, Sir Maurice||McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)||Waring, Major Walter|
|Duncannon, Viscount||M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.||White, Lieut.-Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Whitla, Sir William|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter E (Lanark)||M'Neill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Wigan, Brig.-Gen. John Tyson|
|Elliott, Lt.-Col. Sir G. (Islington, W.)||Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M.||Mitchell, William Lane||Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir R. (Banbury)|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Moles, Thomas||Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)|
|FitzRoy, Captain Hon. E. A.||Molson, Major John Elsdale||Williamson, Rt. Hon. Sir Archibald|
|Forrest, Walter||Morris, Richard||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Geddes, Rt. Hon. Sir E. (Camb'dge)||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir M. (Bethnal Gn.)|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Mosley, Oswald||Wood, Sir J. (Stalybridge & Hyde)|
|Gilbert, James Daniel||Mount, William Arthur||Woolcock, William James U.|
|Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Glyn, Major Ralph||Murray, Lt.-Col. Hon. A. (Aberdeen)||Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)|
|Goff, Sir R. Park||Murray, Major William (Dumfries)||Young, W. (Perth & Kinross, Perth)|
|Grant, James A.||Neal, Arthur||Younger, Sir George|
|Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)|
|Gregory, Holman||Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Capt.|
|Greig, Colonel James William||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.||Guest and Sir R. Sanders.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Kenyon, Barnet||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Lawson, John J.||Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Morgan, Major D. Watts||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Glanville, Harold James||Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Myers, Thomas|
|Hogge, James Myles||Raffan, Peter Wilson||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Major|
|Holmes, J. Stanley||Robertson, John||Barnes and Mr. Spoor.|
|Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Rose, Frank H.|
Question put: accordingly, and agreed to.
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:—
Most Gracious Sovereign.
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United
Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.
§ To be presented by Privy Councillors or Members of His Majesty's Household.